Researchers develop safer solution paint stripping products

Researchers develop safer solution for paint stripping products

9:20 AM, 16th April 2018
Researchers develop safer solution for paint stripping products
TURI Research Manager Greg Morose answers questions about the development of a safer solution for paint stripping products.

UMass Lowell researchers have developed a paint-stripping solvent that they say provides a safer alternative to the toxic, potentially deadly products available for purchase at local hardware stores.

A team led by Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) research manager Greg Morose, which included public health, chemistry and engineering students, developed a new paint remover that performs as well as products that contain the toxic chemical methylene chloride.

An analysis conducted by the Center for Public Integrity identified at least 56 accidental exposure deaths linked to methylene chloride since 1980 in the United States. At least 14 workers have died since 2000 while using the product to refinish bathtubs, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The vapors from methylene chloride can stop breathing and trigger heart attacks in less than one hour, according to public health officials.

“These deaths are preventable,” says prof Emeritus of Public Health and TURI director Michael Ellenbecker. “Methylene chloride is one of the most toxic and dangerous chemicals that anyone is using today.”

Dust masks and cartridge respirators sold in home improvement stores don’t adequately protect workers or consumers. Only a full-face respirator with a separate air supply, or exhaust ventilation to remove the fumes, are sufficient, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and NIOSH.

Through careful selection, testing and toxicity research, the research team identified three existing safer chemicals that, when combined in a certain ratio, remove most paint coatings within 20 minutes, comparable to the time it takes for products with methylene chloride.

“Consumers and companies typically require a quick dwell time, and we’re excited that we can offer this solution as a safer alternative,” said Morose.

The university, which funded the research along with TURI and the US Environmental Protection Agency, recently applied for a patent for the paint-stripping solution and is seeking companies interested in licensing it.

“We hope to partner soon with a company to get this new formulation onto store shelves,” Morose said.

“Since stripping paint requires highly active solvents, all paint-stripper products have some level of hazard associated with them,” said Morose. “TURI is confident, however, due to our initial testing, that the UMass Lowell formulation is much safer than paint strippers containing methylene chloride. After our final phases of testing, our goal is to get this safer product in the marketplace as soon as possible.”

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