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Despite Stand 'n Seal Recall, Chemical Responsible for Lung Injuries Still Present in Waterproofing Sprays

Dec 31, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

A chemical used in the recently recalled Stand ‘n Seal grout sealer is still putting consumers in danger. A variety of products have been  linked to respiratory problems resulting from sprays with a water-repelling ingredient that contains a Teflon-like chemical resin known as a fluoropolymer.  In addition to the recalled Stand ‘n Seal product, fluoropolymer is found in Kenyon Water Repellent, Jobsite Heavy Duty Bootmate, Rocky Boot Weather and Stain Protector.  While the Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC has issued a recall on Stand ’n Seal, which was involved in the most injuries and two deaths, it has done nothing about the other waterproofing sprays.  Jobsite and Rocky Boot, were removed at the request of Michigan officials.

The waterproofing chemical is not considered hazardous at the concentrations found in the sprays, so federal laws do not require labels mention its presenc, said Susan C. Smolinske, professor of toxicology at Wayne State University in Detroit and director of a Michigan regional poison control center.  Thousands are likely to have suffered respiratory problems after using these sprays, according to Smolinske, who also cited reports filed with poison control centers.  Generally, consumers suffer from chemical pneumonitis, a lung inflammation caused by inhaling a foreign object that prevents a person from receiving adequate oxygen.

In October 2006, the director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, Janet Olszewski, wrote to Nancy A. Nord, acting chairwoman of the CPSC, urging her to address the issue, one of several requests.  Henry A. Spiller, toxicologist and director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Center in Louisville, also urged the agency to investigate.  Julie Vallese, spokeswoman for the CPSC, agreed the topic merits attention, but financial issues prevent review of the dangerous waterproofing sprays.  Congress increased the agency’s budget by nearly 30 percent before adjourning this year, so new money may allow research on the products, she added.

Ann F. Hubbs, a pathologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health NIOSH), which has no formal jurisdiction over consumer products, examined the Jobsite product last year at the request of Michigan authorities.  Hubbs concluded the issue appears to date back nearly two decades, when a chemical associated with damage to the ozone layer was removed and formulas changed.  Once the chemical is mixed with other solvents and pressurized it may end up deep in the lungs of the person using it; however, this requires more formal research.

Michigan officials sent a statewide notice warning hospitals about the hazard and also negotiated with the distributor of Jobsite Heavy Duty Bootmate and Rocky Boot and Weather Maker, convincing the company to stop selling the products when the federal product safety commission declined to intervene.  In those cases, more than 215 illnesses were reported, including over a dozen where consumers used the spray outside and became ill after taking their boots inside.  Manny Vickers, president of Fiber-Shield Industries of Yaphank, N.Y., a company that makes a fluoropolymer-based chemical used in millions of waterproofing cans said illnesses appear to be related to particle size, pressurization, and the adequacy of ventilation.


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