Safety tips for Using Paint Removers

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Preparing furniture for a new finish is a rewarding experience. Knowing the proper use of chemical paint remover, and how to avoid potentially adverse effects from overexposure, will make the experience that much more enjoyable. Moreover, the confidence that comes from such knowledge will no doubt have a positive effect upon the quality of your work.

Listed below are some safety tips you should consult before and during your refinishing project.

1. Read the label carefully. Familiarize yourself with the safety precautions printed on the manufacturer's label. Refer to it periodically during the project.

2. Provide maximum fresh air flow through the work area. Avoid inhaling solvent vapors as much as possible. Take frequent fresh air breaks.

3. Wear safety goggles while handling the remover. If any remover gets into the eyes, wash with water. Keep your eyelids open, even if you have to hold them open with your fingers. (Keeping the eyelids open allows air in to evaporate the substance). If burning sensation persists after about ten minutes, see a physician.

4. Cover all skin areas. Wear chemical-resistant rubber gloves made of neoprene or butyl. Also wear long-sleeved shirt, pants, socks, shoes, and a hat or cap (especially if you're working at or above eye level). If any of the remover gets on the skin, wash off with soap and water.

5. Avoid smoking. Don't work in an area where there is a possibility of sparks or flames.

6. Open the container of remover carefully. Cover it with a cloth and open the cap slowly to allow the gases to escape gradually. Pour enough remover for your immediate working needs into a metal can and replace the cap tightly. Repeat this procedure each time you reopen the container. Store the container in a cool place when not in use.

7. Don't store unused paint remover around the house. Buy only what you need.

8. Keep paint remover and other household chemicals out of the reach of children.

Any potential health risk from exposure to paint removing chemicals depends on the amount and duration of exposure. Some physical symptoms that indicate overexposure are eye irritation, dizziness, light-headedness, and/or headache.

As soon as you experience any of these, take a break and get some fresh air. Do not resume the project until you have increased the ventilation through the work area. For your comfort and safety, take fresh-air breaks frequently and leave the work site whenever you are not actually applying or removing stripper.

Other Possible Effects

A portion of inhaled methylene chloride in paint stripper is converted by the body to carbon monoxide, which can lower the blood's ability to carry oxygen. When the solvent is used properly, however, the levels of carbon monoxide should not be hazardous.

Individuals with cardiovascular or pulmonary health problems should check with their physician prior to use of the paint stripper. Individuals experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pains should obtain proper medical care immediately.

Methylene chloride has been shown to cause cancer in certain laboratory animal tests. Recent laboratory studies indicate, however, that the response is unique to animals tested and not relevant to humans. Available human studies, moreover, do not provide the necessary information to determine whether methylene chloride causes cancer in humans.

Nevertheless, it is prudent to minimize exposure to solvent vapors.

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