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  • Chris Golden

The Hidden Dangers of Bathtub and Counter Refinishing

As a home improvement contractor, I'm used to running across the occasional bad contractor. But on 1-20-17, I had an encounter with a dangerous one - one that could easily endanger your own health!

I was recently working with my partner in a typical North Texas home. We were hired to do drywall repairs and texturing. There was also a worker on site to refinish a bathtub. Nothing too unusual about that, as I occasionally run across these guys. But after working for about an hour, I began to really notice a strong chemical smell that was permeating throughout the entire house. I looked around and noticed that the tub guy had finished his job of spraying and had packed up all of his ventilation equipment and had left the house. I found this odd because most tub refinishers will leave behind some equipment to ventilate a bathroom as the tub cures.

I soon began to experience feelings of dizziness and nausea. I gathered my partner and the homeowner and left the house for fresher air. The homeowner then called the tub refinisher and asked him to return to her house. By the time he did, we were all feeling pretty nauseous and light-headed. My partner was having trouble breathing and had to take a hit off of his asthma inhaler. The tub guy, a Mr. Ted Leever (of New Finish Bathtub and Counter Refinishing ), soon returned. He then wondered what all of the concern was about, so I asked him why he had left no ventilation equipment behind. His reply was that everything was okay since he had left the ceiling exhaust fan on! I asked him what specific chemicals he had sprayed in the bathroom. His response was," Uh, I don't know. Tub Paint of some kind". Mr. Leever tried to reassure us all that his paint was "supposed to stink" and that it was completely safe. Having a degree in chemistry, I was instantly skeptical of this claim! I decided to leave the job and come back to continue the following day after the dangerous fumes had subsided. But soon after we left the job, the now very distressed homeowner called me and cancelled the rest of the job! She apparently didn't appreciate all of the hubbub that I had caused in order to safeguard our health.

You see, there is no such thing as a "safe" bathtub paint. These paints are actually designed to be used in the automobile and aviation industries (they are car paints!). They are intended to be used in paint booths, and NOT inside of residential homes. Such paints contain hazardous, volatile organic compounds (VOCs). And they are also highly flammable! What's worse is the fact that they continue to off-gas as they cure, which can take anywhere from 4 to 48 hours after spraying. In my scenario, these toxic and flammable gases were being vented into the attic by a 40-year-old bathroom exhaust fan! Had the fan or light produced a spark, an explosion could have easily occurred! And let's not forget about the toxic and carcinogenic fumes that we all had been breathing.

You might wonder how this is in any way legal. How can a guy come into your house and essentially paint a car? Lack of regulation is one factor. Misleading information from the paint manufacturers is another. The manufacturers of these paints tend to market their products to guys like Ted by using buzzwords such as "eco-friendly", "green", or "VOC-compliant". But that doesn't change the fact that they are toxic and hazardous materials! The suppliers leave it up to the end-user to ensure that they are sprayed in a safe manner. And that's the problem with guys like Ted Leever. He probably has no license or training to handle, transport, and spray hazardous materials inside his customer's homes. Nor is he trained to use or understand them. He doesn't seem to conform to OSHA regulations regarding the spraying of hazardous materials. One can only guess as to what he does with the waste he produces!

So before you plunk down money for a shiny new bathtub finish, be sure to ask a few questions. Ask what exactly will be sprayed in your home. Ask about their ventilation equipment. Demand to see a Material Safety Data Sheet ( MSDS ) for the products they will use. And ask yourself why you are about to hire someone to come into your house, set up a makeshift spray booth, and essentially paint a car in your bathroom! Is your health worth it?


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