Advocates call on Pruitt EPA to end delay, protect Americans from toxic products
ATLANTA — The world’s largest home improvement retailer, The Home Depot, announced today that it will phase out the use of the toxic chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in its paint removal products by the end of this year. The company, which operates more than 2,200 stores in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, is the third major retailer this month to commit to pulling the products from store shelves. Methylene chloride and NMP have been found to pose unacceptable health risks to the public, including cancer, harm to the nervous system and to childhood development, and death.
“The Home Depot’s action is the latest nail in the coffin for methylene chloride and NMP paint strippers,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “We applaud The Home Depot for taking this important step that will go a long way in safeguarding its customers from these unnecessary toxic chemicals and promote safer alternatives. The time for hazardous paint strippers is over, and we urge the remaining retailers stocking these products to put their customers first and remove them from store shelves swiftly. Walmart, Menards, and Ace Hardware should phase out the sale of all paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of 2018.”
“We’re glad that the private sector is finally starting to take action on these dangerous chemicals, but the EPA must stop dragging their feet and ban these toxic hazards once and for all so that no other family has to suffer,” said Sujatha Bergen, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“First Lowe’s, then Sherwin-Williams and now The Home Depot, all these retailers have agreed there are safer alternatives to methylene chloride and are pulling it from their shelves to protect their customers,” said Brian Wynne, brother of Drew Wynne who died from methylene chloride exposure from a paint stripper purchased at Lowe’s in 2017. “Sadly their actions are too late for my brother and the many others who have been harmed or killed by these toxic products. The EPA must act on their intention to finalize the ban on methylene chloride now!”
“The Home Depot realizes they’re on the frontline of consumer discontent with product safety,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of Environmental Health Strategy Center and senior advisor to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “When the government says a chemical threatens human health, market leaders like The Home Depot rightly respond. And when the market begins an early exit, it’s time for EPA to finalize a toxic chemical ban to sweep up the laggards.”
In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a ban on paint removers that contain methylene chloride and NMP, citing the products’ unreasonable risks to human health. Deferring to the wishes of the chemical industry, the EPA shelved its proposed ban soon after Scott Pruitt was confirmed as EPA Administrator and the agency has taken no action in 18 months. Last month, two days after Administrator Pruitt met with families who have recently lost loved ones due to methylene chloride exposure, the EPA announced that it would finalize a methylene chloride rule. However, the agency has revealed few details on its planned regulatory action, offered no timeline, and has taken no action on NMP.
Following the EPA’s proposed ban, last year Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families sent The Home Depot and Lowe’s letters warning the companies about the dangers of these chemicals and requested they stop selling paint strippers containing toxic chemicals. Over the past year, more than 65,000 people signed petitions to The Home Depot and over 200,000 to Lowe’s on this topic. NRDC recently sent letters to both The Home Depot and Lowe’s and launched a video on Instagram that generated more than three million views. In early May, advocates held a national “week of action” outside of Lowe’s stores in over a dozen states. As a result, last month Lowe’s became the first major U.S. retailer to commit to banning methylene chloride and NMP globally. On Friday, Sherwin-Williams, the nation’s largest specialty retailer of paint and paint supplies, announced it was also phasing out the sale of methylene chloride paint strippers by the end of 2018 and that it will continue to keep NMP paint strippers off its shelves.
Methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 deaths nationwide since 1980 and is linked to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. Since EPA proposed a ban, at least four people in the U.S. have died from working with methylene chloride-based paint strippers. In turn, NMP, which can be substituted for methylene chloride in paint removers, impacts fetal development and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. According to the EPA, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and 2 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.
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 2017, the campaign released its second annual Who’s Minding the Store? report card ranking and evaluating thirty of the nation’s largest retailers on toxic chemicals.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
- Safer Chemicals’ Fact Sheets: Methylene Chloride, N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP)
- “Deaths linked to a common paint stripper chemical go back decades, so why isn’t it banned?,” CBS News, March 29, 2018
- Map of U.S. deaths from methylene chloride
- Public health advocates’ comments to EPA urging ban on methylene chloride
- EPA’s proposed methylene chloride ban in the Federal Register