Health advocates urge Lowe’s and EPA to ban toxic paint strippers

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2018

N.C. Conservation Network

WASHINGTON — Environmental health advocates from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and other groups in more than a dozen states are demanding that Lowe’s Home Improvement remove paint strippers containing a deadly chemical, methylene chloride, from its stores nationwide.

Activists will demonstrate with signs featuring photos of methylene chloride victims and share information about the dangers of methylene chloride and the toxic chemical N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) with Lowe’s customers. They also will speak with store employees and managers about their concerns.

Groups and activists are mounting grassroots efforts in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and other states.

Meanwhile, the families of three men who died from methylene chloride exposure are visiting Washington this week to meet with members of Congress and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to demand that the EPA impose a pending ban on the use of the chemicals in paint stripper products.

Drew Wynne, 31, died in October while using a paint stripper containing methylene chloride that he bought at Lowe’s to strip the floor at his coffee brewing business in South Carolina. Wynne’s mother, father and brother will meet with members of the South Carolina and North Carolina delegations to Congress.

Kevin Hartley, 21, died in April 2017 after using a paint stripper containing methylene chloride to strip a bathtub for his family’s contracting business in Tennessee. Hartley’s mother and grandmother will meet with members of the Tennessee delegation.

Joshua Atkins, 31, died in February while refinishing his BMX bike with a paint stripper containing methylene chloride at his home in Pennsylvania. Atkins’ mother will meet with members of the Pennsylvania delegation.

“Not one more mother should go through what I’ve been going through,” said Lauren Atkins, Joshua’s mother. “The EPA should protect Americans from methylene chloride and ban it in paint strippers. Retailers should protect their customers and stop selling these products. My son shouldn’t have died this way, and no one else should lose a loved one to these deadly products.”

Methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 deaths nationwide since 1980. At least four men have died since the beginning of 2017, when EPA first proposed its ban and advocates asked Lowe’s and Home Depot to end sales of these paint strippers.

The chemical is also linked to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity and reproductive toxicity. N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) affects fetal development and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.

In 2017, EPA proposed banning paint strippers containing these chemicals, citing the products’ unreasonable risks to consumers. The agency has yet to complete the ban. More than 60,000 U.S. workers and 2 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.

The week of action follows the launch of a national campaign by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, NRDC and other coalition partners urging Lowe’s to ban paint strippers containing these chemicals.

More than 120,000 consumers nationwide have already signed petitions urging Lowe’s to act.

Last year, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families sent Lowe’s a letter warning the company about the dangers of these chemicals and requested that the store stop selling paint strippers containing toxic chemicals, including the product that killed Drew Wynne.

“Since we first wrote to Lowe’s last year, four families have lost loved ones from working with toxic paint strippers,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “Lowe’s should pull these products from store shelves immediately. ‘DIY’ shouldn’t spell danger.”

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families leads a coalition of more than 450 organizations and businesses working to safeguard American families from toxic chemicals.

The group’s Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute them with safer alternatives.

In November, the campaign released its Who’s Minding the Store? report card ranking 30 of the nation’s retailers on toxic chemicals. Lowe’s ranked 19th, earning a D- grade.