N-Methylpyrrolidone, also known as NMP or 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, is a solvent used in a range of products. The average consumer is most likely to encounter it in paint strippers, even though safer alternatives exist. NMP has been closely linked to developmental impacts including miscarriages.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes NMP as a developmental toxicant. In 2017, EPA proposed to ban this chemical’s use in paint stripping but then shelved the proposal under pressure from industry. We’re calling on retailers including Lowe’s and The Home Depot to take action and stop selling paint strippers containing NMP. In the meantime, if you need to remove paint or a coating, make sure to avoid NMP and other toxic chemicals like methylene chloride.

Learn more:
What products is NMP used in?
How am I exposed to this chemical?

If you are a consumer or worker who uses products with NMP, you may be exposed through skin contact or by inhaling the vapors.

  • You are most likely to be exposed to NMP while using paint and coating removers containing the chemical.
  • Contact with skin may be direct if the product touches your hands, or indirect, if NMP vapor is absorbed through any uncovered skin (e.g. neck or head).
  • Keep in mind: According to EPA, respiratory protection and specialized gloves may not be enough to protect people from exposure where levels of NMP are high.

Y0u may also be exposed if you live in a home where water-based coatings with NMP were recently applied.

  • This type of coating may be applied to wood flooring in homes. In the week or two after the application, residents may be exposed to elevated levels of NMP vapor from the coating, according to a recent study.

EPA estimates that each year, 30,300 workers and 732,000 consumers are exposed to NMP in paint and coating removers.

What are the possible health impacts?

Short exposures (“acute”):

  • Developmental toxicity / Fetal death (such as miscarriage or stillbirth) is a key risk from just one day of exposure to NMP in paint strippers. According to estimates by EPA, each year 11,300 pregnant consumers and 160 pregnant workers face an increased risk of fetal death from exposure to NMP.
    • Fetal death can result in significant emotional impacts for the woman and her partner and adversely impact future pregnancies and children.
    • EPA discussed a report of a pregnant worker’s fetus dying at 31 weeks in utero: She “was exposed throughout pregnancy” to unknown levels of NMP but she also worked with acetone and methanol. In week 16 of the pregnancy, she became sick with a headache, nausea, and vomiting for four days after cleaning up a spill of NMP using gloves that dissolved in the chemical.
  • Skin, eye, and possible respiratory irritation

Long-term exposures (“chronic”) include:

  • Developmental toxicity / decreased fetal weight may result when female workers who may become pregnant are repeatedly exposed to NMP in paint and coating removal, even if the exposure is only for five days. EPA states that a subset of the estimated 500 pregnant workers annually using NMP for paint and coating removal is at an increased risk for decreased fetal weight.
    • Decreased fetal weight can lead to low birth weight. This in turn may contribute to problems right at birth, including difficulties gaining weight, breathing problems, and neurologic and gastrointestinal problems. Because of a low birth weight, the child may not grow quickly and may face cognitive, behavioral, and neurological issues. Once adults, these individuals are more likely to have poor health and suffer from metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Body weight reductions
  • Kidney toxicity
  • Liver toxicity
  • Reproductive toxicity
  • Neurotoxicity
What is the government doing about this?
What can I do?

Lowe’s is one of the top home improvement retail chains in the U.S. and is still selling paint strippers with NMP, even though there are safer alternatives. Join us in calling on Lowe’s to do the right thing and stop selling these toxic products.

How can I avoid exposure to NMP?

Know the ingredients in your paint stripper or other products listed above

  • If you or your home contractor needs to remove paint or a coating or apply a coating, make sure the product used does not contain NMP. Even if it is labeled as “Safe for indoor use” or “No harsh fumes” – check the ingredients.
  • According to EPA, respiratory protection and specialized gloves may not be enough to protect people from being exposed where levels of NMP are high. Even with lower levels, it may be difficult to find gloves that are effective against the specific formulation of the product.
  • Another toxic component of paint strippers is methylene chloride. It’s also important to avoid products containing this chemical.

Look for safer products

Use another method without chemicals – although it may carry different risks 

  • It’s possible to strip bathtubs by sanding.
  • Other paint and coating removal methods include thermal removal, hydroblasting, abrasive blasting, and laser removal.