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The True Price of a Good Paint Stripping Product

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Jamie Smith Hopkins has a long story on methylene chloride, a chemical used for paint-stripping and carpet gluing that has an unfortunate tendency to kill the people using it. It’s not a huge killer in terms of numbers–56 known deaths in the U.S. since 1980 although that’s probably an understatement. But each of those deaths are completely avoidable. The EPA is slowly moving toward some kind of stricter standards. But it is very difficult for the agency to go hard after a chemical. The industries are powerful, have a lot of friends in Congress and within the EPA and other regulatory agencies, and the government’s power is limited. The methylene chloride industry is estimated to be worth nearly 900 million dollars worldwide by 2020, which is not huge by some standards but we are talking about paint stripping here. Most of the people who have died are workers, some are consumers. How many more suffer brain damage or other physical aliments from being constantly light-headed from exposure at work is unknown. What is known is that this is another example of industry not caring about the lives of its laborers and of unsafe workplaces being a long-term problem in the United States.

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