A weekend home improvement project shouldn’t expose you or your family to dangerous chemicals. But right now you can walk into The Home Depot and other stores and buy paint strippers containing dangerous chemicals.
We recently sent a letter to The Home Depot, the biggest home improvement retailer in the world, asking executives to stop selling products containing these dangerous chemicals. We also shared with them this new fact-sheet with examples of products they sell containing these chemicals of concern.
But so far, The Home Depot has not responded to our letter or the thousands of people that have contacted the company over the past week. That’s why we need your help—contact the CEO of The Home Depot now!
Tell The Home Depot to stop selling paint strippers containing toxic methylene chloride (also known as dichloromethane or DCM) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP).
Toxic chemicals linked to cancer and developmental harm
Long-term exposure to DCM has been linked to liver toxicity as well as liver and lung cancer. But even short-term exposure to DCM can be deadly. According to OSHA, paint strippers containing DCM have been linked to more than 50 deaths nationwide since the 1980’s—many from uses like refinishing bathtubs in poorly ventilated spaces. In fact, evidence has been piling up about this risk since the 1940’s. A chemical this dangerous shouldn’t be on store shelves. Just look at what the Center for Public Integrity found in its must-read story:
“The California Department of Public Health…said the continuing deaths suggest methylene chloride is ‘too hazardous to be used outside of engineered industrial environments’ — exactly what the European Union concluded about the chemical in paint strippers. While these products can be bought at home-improvement and general retail stores across the U.S., the specialty respirators and polyvinyl-alcohol gloves needed to handle them safely cannot, the Department of Public Health says.
Even workers wearing respiratory protection have succumbed. Levi Weppler, 30, who left a widow pregnant with their first child, was among those found dead with a respirator on, slumped over the Ohio bathtub he was refinishing in 2011. The cartridge-style device he used to filter the air wasn’t enough: Only a full-face respirator with a separate air supply, or exhaust ventilation to remove the fumes, is sufficient, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say.”
Some companies have been marketing NMP as a safer alternative to methylene chloride, but the science shows it’s a clear regrettable substitute, which is why EPA is proposing restrictions on NMP. NMP exposure puts women of childbearing age and pregnant women at risk of harm to their fetuses. It has been linked to miscarriage, fetal death, decreased birth weight, and other fetal developmental effects.
Removing paint strippers containing these toxic chemicals from The Home Depot’s shelves will protect the health of their customers, especially women of reproductive age. Plus, it will help meet the rising consumer demand for safer and healthier products.
EPA proposes nationwide restrictions on toxic chemicals in paint strippers
Recently the EPA proposed largely banning these toxic chemicals from paint strippers sold to consumers under the new chemical safety law. Scientists at the agency recognize how dangerous they are. So we’re working to make sure that EPA’s proposal becomes a final regulation. But that process could take years, especially under the Trump administration, and there’s no reason for The Home Depot to keep selling products containing these dangerous chemicals in the meantime. Methylene chloride-based paint strippers may also be regulated in the State of California.
Safer alternatives are available
The good news is that safer alternatives are readily available. A recent report by Clean Production Action evaluated the safety of various alternatives to methylene chloride, and concluded that “Safer alternatives to methylene chloride for use in chemical paint strippers are widely available based on assessing the hazards of eleven chemical alternatives.”
The Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Institute has been working for years to promote safer alternatives and has compiled other useful resources.
Two years ago the Home Depot became the first major U.S. home improvement retailer to phase out added phthalates in flooring, spurring a major market movement away from toxic phthalates. We applaud their leadership in taking action on phthalates in flooring. Just like with phthalates, these chemicals pose unnecessary risks to workers and consumers. We hope The Home Depot will show the same leadership in also phasing out toxic DCM and NMP in paint strippers.