Top 60 Boating Tips by Boating Magazine

Saturday, November 15, 2008


All of us take chances. Some are small and others require that you literally "bet your life". It's those major chances that are likely to result in serious injury, or even death.

We all cheat a bit when we use hazardous products. Remember when you sprayed touch up paint on your engine, down in the bilge? Wow, pretty good high, huh? Unfortunately, your lungs, kidneys and especially your liver, didn't enjoy it at all. And how about that little fiberglass repair you did. The fumes were really heavy. Again, your internal organs suffered. What about washing up with solvents? Lacquer thinner, acetone or MEK work great in dissolving that sticky resin. Too bad it's doing the same to your liver. Remember how your hands turned white when you cleaned them off with lacquer thinner? It defatted your skin; think about the damage it was doing internally!

Let's talk about solvent safety for a minute. You've all heard that alcohol use frequently results in liver disease. That's because alcohol, which is a solvent, attacks the liver and destroys it. So we all hoist a few now and then, and our livers are doing fine, right. Yep, most likely so. But remember, the degree of damage is dependent on three distinct factors, time, total and toxicity.

For example, having a few drinks every weekend spaces out the time, the total amount is low, and the toxicity of drinkable alcohol is relatively low on the solvent scale. Now if you wash your hands with a few ounces of industrial solvent, like methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone or methylene chloride twice daily, you're in big trouble. The time factor is much more frequent. the total amount is far greater, and the toxicity is extremely high. In fact, you can lose over 50% of your liver function and may never know it, unless you contract hepatitis or otherwise have a liver function test.

When you work with any material containing solvents, or the solvents themselves, give your liver a break. Work in well ventilated places. Induce ventilation if needed, but not with ordinary fans that may spark and ignite the fumes. In some cases a respirator may be needed. Use suitable gloves and/or a barrier cream for your skin.

Occasional contact with most solvents is not overly harmful, unless you come into contact with a solvent such as phenol. Washing your hands in that will almost surely result in death. So take precautions whenever you use solvents. The life you save may be your own.

Plus. solvents are harmful to the environment, so use and dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way. Never flush them into the water or allow them to collect in your bilges. Most solvents are flammable, increasing the risk of fire, as well as damage to materials they contact that you didn't plan on.

Safe Boating!

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