For decades, companies have been manufacturing, distributing and selling durable waterproofing spray products, which promise to safely and effectively re-seal water-resistant clothing, footwear, other apparel, and shower/bathtub grout.

These low-cost waterproofing spray products look as innocuous like a can of spray paint and often contain labels touting their “earth-friendly” ingredients. But what these companies have known for decades is that their durable waterproofing sprays are extremely dangerous because they contain chemicals called fluoropolymers, which cause life-threatening respiratory injuries when inhaled.

These waterproofing spray products have what are called Material Safety Data Sheets (“MSDS”), which describe the risk associated with the chemicals contained in the spray products and how to handle them safely. Many of these MSDS explicitly state the chemicals contained in the spray products, fluoropolymers, including cause respiratory injuries when inhaled, and that respirators are necessary to avoid respiratory injury. Indeed, many of these companies require its workers to wear respirators when manufacturing these products because of the risk of respiratory injuries when inhaling waterproofing spray.

Many of MSDS for these products also gave first aid instructions for treating respiratory injuries resulting from inhalation. In spite of having these warnings and information directly from the MSDS, the companies chose not to provide these warnings and information on the waterproofing spray products labels to those who were in most need of it, the consumers who would purchase and use this product.

Because it was known that fluoropolymers cause respiratory injuries when inhaled, some of the MSDS also explicitly state not to pressurize or put the fluoropolymer into an aerosol form because that allows the fluoropolymers to get airborne and inhaled into the lungs. Yet, many of these companies have made a conscious decision to ignore the MSDS and aerosolized the fluoropolymers into their waterproofing spray products.

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The scientific research and studies demonstrate that the fluoropolymer-containing waterproofing products that pose respiratory risks are not specific to brands or formulas, but are dangerous because they contain the fluoropolymer resin. A study by Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, published in the Spring of 2008, found the respiratory injuries were occurring from exposure to waterproofing sprays despite the fact that the exact type of fluoropolymer resin differed among the various waterproofing spray products.

As a Michigan Department of Community Health advisory cautions, “All brands should be handled with extreme caution.”. As another study put it, such a recurrence of outbreaks caused by fluoropolymer sprays “suggests that safety issues in the development of coating mixtures have so far followed a trial-and-error process, rather than a long-term anticipatory and preventative strategy.”.

Doctors and public health officials from around the world have been concerned about the respiratory problems caused by these sprays since the early 1990s. Numerous reports detailed the respiratory problems caused by using such sprays including chemical pneumonitis, shortness of breath, persistent cough, and long-term lung injuries. Countless government entities and scientific journals discovered, reported and warned of the risk of respiratory injuries from waterproofing spray products.

In 2001, a letter submitted to the Journal of Toxicology reported a case of pulmonary toxicity following exposure to Tectron DWR, which was owned and distributed by Blue Magic Products, Inc. The letter was to alert clinical toxicologists of the “continued market presence of fluoropolymer-containing waterproofing products that have the potential to cause life-threatening pulmonary injury.”. Tectron DWR continues to be sold throughout the United States at outdoor equipment stores.

In 2006, the Michigan Department of Community Health (“MDCH”) posted several advisories about the serious respiratory injuries caused by waterproofing spray products. The advisories noted that in addition to the cases reported in Michigan, “more than 160 reports have been received by poison control centers across four other states, including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. There were also reports of clusters of chemical pneumonitis associated with aerosolized waterproofing agents in Canada and Europe.

The Michigan advisories refrained from limiting the warning to specific waterproofing spray products, “although certain brand names have been cited by clusters of patients, various other brand names have been provided.” Due to the frequency of reports of such injuries, the Director of the MDCH, warned, ‘Until this health investigation is completed, consumers should consider avoiding these products altogether…”. The advisory also cautioned that the respiratory hazard could not be determined by the label:

  • These clusters suggest that the more toxic products contain some kind of fluoropolymer. However, the manufacturers are not required to put this on the label, because fluoropolymers by themselves do not appear to be toxic. It may be that they become toxic when they interact with the other chemical constituents in the can as the contents become aerosolized. Therefore, all brands should be handled with extreme caution.
  • Additionally, because users had been harmed by the sprays in well-ventilated areas, and “some individuals may have only used the product outside,” the MDCH recommended using the sprays with extreme caution. Later in 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) began warning the public of dangers associated with waterproofing spray products with fluoropolymers.

A 2006 article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene analyzed 102 cases of acute respiratory syndrome following inhalation of waterproofing spray products. The article also concluded, “It is unlikely that a simple improvement of the exposure conditions may have prevented the occurrence of the toxicity outbreak. Thus, enforcing compliance with the basic safety measures, such as spraying in a well-ventilated space, is obviously not sufficient in this case.”

Accordingly, the authors concluded written warnings would not be adequate to prevent injury. The article went on to say that even though previous outbreaks had been contained by removing the product from the market, this has not prevented new, similar products from causing more outbreaks. The recurrence of outbreaks “suggests that safety issues in the development of coating mixtures have so far followed a trial-and-error process, rather than a long-term anticipatory and preventative strategy.”

Then in 2007, the New York Times article highlighted this “long-running series of lung injuries tied to widely available waterproofing sprays.”. It reported that public health officials from several states were growing concerned about the respiratory problems caused by waterproofing spray products and urging the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate. An investigation was particularly important as “no one has an accurate count of how many consumers are sickened each year as a result of these sprays. The illnesses are often not attributed to the sprays or recorded properly by poison control centers, preventing a reliable tally, health officials said.”.

These companies have been aware of, or consciously disregarded, what the scientific community has known about the respiratory hazards associated with aerosolized waterproofing sprays containing fluoropolymers. The asbestos and tobacco industry employed this same “bury your head in the sand” attitude for decades, which is why punitive damages are routinely awarded against asbestos and tobacco manufacturers and distributors.

These companies’ willful failure to remove these waterproofing spray products from the market knowing the harm it posed to consumers is in stark contrast to the voluntary recalls issued by other fluoropolymer spray manufacturers and distributors in similar situations. As the Michigan State University study stated, “Typically what has happened after recognition of an outbreak is that the manufacturer has stopped distribution of the product.”. Two such voluntary recalls took place in Oregon and Pennsylvania and occurred only days after notification of the injuries. Following the voluntary recall, an American Association of Poison Control Center alert, and a local media alert, 37 additional cases were reported. After the public announcement of the voluntary recall in Oregon, the number of reports increased from 29 to 400.

As a Swiss study concluded, “despite the appropriate use of certain spray products, sudden outbreaks of the mass respiratory disorder have been observed.”. This conclusion is supported by an MDCH study, which acknowledged that users of such waterproofing spray products had been harmed even in well-ventilated areas and when only using the sprays outside. Yet another study concluded, because respiratory injuries were caused despite a variety of brands, formulas, and exposure conditions, it is unlikely that improving the exposure conditions would have prevented respiratory injuries. As such, even when users followed the basic safety instructions, such as spraying in a well-ventilated space, such measures were insufficient. Accordingly, “written warnings on product packages are probably insufficient to prevent the toxicity because of the apparent lack of a safe threshold dose.”

These companies knew of the risk of respiratory injury from their durable waterproofing spray products. These companies consciously disregarded these risk, and have failed to adequately warn about the known risks of respiratory injuries. In spite of their actual knowledge of the risk of respiratory injuries, these companies did not recall or halt manufacture and distribution of these waterproofing sprays or change the label to warn of the known risk. Such conduct was done heedlessly and recklessly, without regard to consequences, or of the rights and safety of everyday consumers. These companies know their spray products cause life-threatening injuries and sell them anyway.

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Thompson Law Office Can Help You With Your Waterproofing Spray Lawsuit

Products liability injury claims, like those involving waterproofing spray products, can involve a range of theories for recovery. However, it is important to state that product liability claims can be difficult to establish and generally require the assistance of product liability lawyers well versed in handling these types of claims. As such, it is important to consult with an experienced California products defect lawyer to assess whether you have a valid claim for compensation in your waterproofing spray case.

The Thompson Law Office’s product liability and defect lawyers are here for you. We only represent injured people and their loved ones. We never represent insurance companies, big businesses, or the government. We are committed to righting wrongs of defective products, preventing this from happening to others, and helping you and your loved ones get maximum compensation for the injuries they have suffered at these products’ hands. We don’t want anyone to suffer or be injured in the future as a result of these waterproofing sprays. For a free consultation with an experienced product liability lawyer, please contact Thompson Law Office to determine if we can help with your waterproofing spray lawsuit or claim.