Summer Explore Inquiry Project Garners National Attention on Toxic Chemical Exposure

Annie Hoang

Annie Hoang

A Summer Explore project UCSF medical student Annie Hoang started in 2018 examining fatalities related to exposure to methylene chloride, a solvent widely used in paint strippers, cleaners, adhesives, and sealants, has garnered national attention. Co-authored with UCSF faculty members and others, Hoang’s research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, highlighted in The Hill, and featured in major environmental organization’s websites including the National Resources Defense Council and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. Hoang is lead author on the study.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has acknowledged 53 fatalities connected to the chemical from 1980 to 2018, but Hoang’s research identified 85 deaths during this period. 

“It is unacceptable that these workers died simply because they were doing their job,” Hoang said in UCSF's press release. “I hope the EPA will do its job to protect our workers and save lives.” 

Hoang is a student in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US) and is a research fellow at UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. She is not only the first in her family to attend college, she’s the first to go to school at all.

In a blog post published on the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website, Hoang said her experience growing up in urban poverty with working-class parents taught her that “where you live and work affects your health.” 

She advocates for policy change: “It is time for the EPA to remedy this injustice by carrying out what the agency initially intended four years ago—ban deadly methylene-chloride stripping products from commercial use. Let’s protect our workers from having to make a catch-22 choice between work and health.”