Decorator killed by chemical fumes from paint stripper

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The Independent Online

A man died and 12 others needed hospital treatment after they inhaled fumes from commercial paint stripper that was being used to renovate a suburban house.

A man died and 12 others needed hospital treatment after they inhaled fumes from commercial paint stripper that was being used to renovate a suburban house.

The dead man was believed to have been overcome by fumes from the chemical while he was refurbishing a home in East Sheen, south-west London. Four ambulance workers, six police officers and two other contractors were taken to hospital after breathing in the fumes, but none was seriously injured.

Firefighters were called to the two-storey terraced house in Upper Richmond Road on Thursday morning. The dead man, a contractor who was said to have been decorating overnight, was found in the basement near to the spilt chemical. A bucket containing five litres of the commercial paint stripper dichloromethane had tipped over and spread across the basement floor.

Firefighters wearing breathing kits eventually mopped up the spillage and decontaminated the building. But police, ambulance crews and other contractors were exposed to the chemical before the house could be sealed off.

A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: "Four ambulance personnel, six police personnel and two contractors were taken to hospital by ambulance suffering from inhalation of the fumes.

"Sadly one contractor was found in the basement apparently dead."

A London Ambulance Service spokeswoman said the ambulance workers and police were taken to Kingston Hospital as a precaution because they were exposed to the chemical.

The dead man, 34, has not been named as police said his family had not yet been informed. He was found in the basement by police officers and the Health and Safety Executive has launched an investigation into the death.

Dichloromethane is found in low quantities in drinking water and is also used in coffee decaffeination.

A study of the effects on mice that were made to inhale the chemical found "conclusive evidence of carcinogenicity", according to the World Health Organisation, but there was no proof of a link between inhalation and an increased cancer risk in humans.

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