Common Waterproofing Sprays May Cause Lung Problems, But CPSC Won't Warn You About It

Several cheap waterproofing sprays—like Kenyon Water Repellent, Jobsite Heavy Duty Bootmate, Rocky Boot Weather and Stain Protector, and Stand ‘n Seal grout sealer—can cause “shortness of breath, persistent cough and in some cases long-term lung injuries,” writes the New York Times. Unfortunately, you won’t see warnings on any of these products, because the CPSC keeps ignoring state requests to do something about it.

Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman for the product safety commission, said the agency had received such requests and agreed that the topic merited attention. But a shortage of money has prevented it from doing the work, Ms. Vallese said.

Here’s hoping that an increased budget in 2008 gives the CPSC the means to, um, ensure product safety.

“State Health Officials Fault Lack of Federal Action on Waterproofing Sprays” [New York Times]

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  1. CharlieFogg says:

    What? Something that prevents water from entering a membrane might also prevent air from entering a membrane? Who knew? There are warnings to spray outside on those kinds of bottles. That should make it obvious to anyone using it that it might cause breathing problems.

    But, apparently, it’s not obvious to some people.

  2. Buran says:

    Your mistake was expecting the “We don’t want money to do our jobs right because we’d rather slack off” CPSC to do anything.

  3. DallasDMD says:

    This is just one of the many examples of the problems chemicals cause in society.

  4. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    I’m with @CharlieFogg; I just assume that you shouldn’t breathe in anything but air. Maybe someone didn’t get the news about not using anything that’s spray-on without proper ventilation, keeping upwind of it, etc.?

  5. ARP says:

    Charliefogg and King of the wild frontier- I agree with you to a certain extent. I think I’m like 90+% of the population where I understand that using spray paints, sealants, etc. in an enclosed space will cause problems. But, if this stuff causes those problems in very low concentrations, even with the proper precautions, etc. then they either need to warn you or remove it from the market. The article doesn’t mention those sorts of details.

  6. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I generally make it a habit NOT to inhale any chemical that is not meant for consuming; especially the ones that say “do not use indoors” or “use only in a well-ventilated area.”

    I THOUGHT this was common sen-shit, we might as well stop using that term altogether.

  7. tkozikow says:

    My family owns a lot of outdoor gear with durable water repellent (DWR) finishes and I never thought much of the annual process of hanging jackets in the garage and treating them with a spray coating of Nikwax TX Direct until a friend of mine mentioned that this might not be such a good idea since it could be laying down a nice water repellent coating on my lungs. We now use the wash-in version of TX Direct – not sure if it is as effective, but without the risk of dying. I am not sure that I fault the CPSC on this since the package warnings are pretty clear

  8. bnb614 says:

    Maybe they can make the waterproofing spray harder to get, like common cold medicines. It could be sold only in pharmacies with proof of ID. That way people like most of us, can be inconvenienced as much as possible, to prevent the occasional jackass from overdosing by sticking the nozzle up his nose and spraying it.

    Unless you work in a waterproofing factory, the amount of spray you would use to waterproof a pair of boots would be so miniscule that unless you perform the act with your head 3 inches from the boots in an enclosed space, there probably isn’t much to worry about.

    But thankfully the government is there to protect me from myself.

    I would respect the CPSC a lot more if they would just say “we will not issue warnings because we believe in Darwinism.”

  9. Unless you work in a waterproofing factory, the amount of spray you would use to waterproof a pair of boots would be so miniscule that unless you perform the act with your head 3 inches from the boots in an enclosed space, there probably isn’t much to worry about.

    @bnb614:

    In those cases, more than 215 illnesses were reported, including more than a dozen consumers who had used the spray outside and then became ill after taking their boots inside. Apparently, the evaporating chemical as the boots dried was enough to sicken them, said a report on the outbreak published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Of course, we don’t know how close they were to the boots while spraying or how long they waited before bringing their boots indoors but that’s why the CPSC should investigate.

  10. TechnoDestructo says:

    @bnb614:

    “Unless you work in a waterproofing factory, the amount of spray you would use to waterproof a pair of boots would be so miniscule that unless you perform the act with your head 3 inches from the boots in an enclosed space, there probably isn’t much to worry about.”

    Yes, I am sure that is what EVERYONE who has been injured by this stuff was doing.

    There are plenty of household chemicals that have warnings to use in well-ventilated areas. With most of those, if you don’t, you’ll end up being a little uncomfortable while you’re doing it. It doesn’t sneak up on you and knock you out an hour later. You aren’t going to be hurt by spray paint unless you’re huffing it. I really doubt that’s what all these people were doing with this stuff.

    If you’d read the fucking article, you’d see that at least some of them emphatically had not.

    “In those cases, more than 215 illnesses were reported, including more than a dozen consumers who had used the spray outside and then became ill after taking their boots inside. Apparently, the evaporating chemical as the boots dried was enough to sicken them”

    This is not your run-of-the-mill caution-eye-irritant household chemical. This one is sneaky, and clearly a lot more dangerous than people expect. If anything deserves a warning label, this is it.

    Oh yeah, and when I’m buying or using household chemicals, I like to know what the risks are. If you think putting that on the can ruins the aesthetics, screw you. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. (I DO read it, BTW.)

  11. Parting says:

    How much spray do you need to get sick? (And I’m not talking about people who might have an allergy to one of the spray’s ingredients)

  12. jwissick says:

    Duh.. Just smell the chemicals and you KNOW that it can’t be good for you. Wise up people.

  13. backbroken says:

    On the plus side, if you breathe these waterproofing vapors, you become impervious to drowning.

  14. TechnoDestructo says:

    @jwissick:

    It’s not a matter of it being not good for you…it’s precisely HOW not good for you it is.

  15. osiris7 says:

    Yes, but market forces (and dead customers) would cause them to stop selling the product, right? Isn’t that the way an economy without government ‘interference’ is supposed to work?

  16. cerbie says:

    @jwissick: RTFA. As stated in the article, we’re talking about chemicals that don’t need much to cause harm, including that little sniff you talk about. You want that little whiff to give someone permanent lung damage? It can, and I speak from first hand experience.

    @osiris7: no, nor is there a need for that. Rather, other options will become available. We’ll start buying our waterproofing supplies at Whole Foods :).