Toxic methylene chloride linked to more than 50 deaths and cancer

CHARLESTON, SC – At 31 years old, entrepreneur Drew Wynne’s life was cut short when he inhaled a toxic paint stripper containing methylene chloride, which he bought at Lowe’s to refinish a floor. Now his family is telling the hardware chain and other similar home improvement retailers to stop selling the deadly product to prevent another tragic death.

Today Drew’s mother and father, Cindy and Hal Wynne, and environmental health advocates from Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and the Natural Resources Defense Council held a national press teleconference to launch a new campaign asking Lowe’s to phase out the sale of these dangerous products. The Wynne family and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families also launched an online petition targeting Lowe’s. Advocates from numerous other organizations plan to follow suit and deliver the combined signatures to Lowe’s in the coming months.

“No family should lose a loved one because of deadly chemicals,” said Cindy Wynne, mother of Drew Wynne. “To this day, you can walk into Lowe’s and other home improvement retailers and buy the same product that killed Drew—plus numerous others containing the same chemical. I hope Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock will do the right thing and ban this dangerous product.”

Cindy and the Wynne family were featured in a CBS This Morning story today.

“DIY shouldn’t spell danger,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “It’s been more than a year since we first asked Lowe’s to take action on these deadly products. There’s no reason Lowe’s should still be selling these products today. Methylene chloride-based paint strippers have already been banned in Europe, but can be found at home improvement stores across America. How many more people have to die before retailers like Lowe’s take action?”

“It’s outrageous that Lowe’s and others are still selling this highly toxic product linked to dozens of fatalities,” said Erik Olson, Health Program Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Because the EPA has failed to protect consumers from this deadly product, it’s critical that retailers like Lowe’s step up to protect their unsuspecting customers. Lowe‘s should take this poison off their shelves today, and EPA should finalize its ban now.”

“Methylene chloride is a toxic chemical that can quickly build up to dangerous levels in work spaces,” said Veena Singla, Ph.D. Associate Director of Science & Policy at University of California San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.  “It can cause rapid unconsciousness and death and has killed far too many people already. These tragedies are preventable.”

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

In 2017, the EPA proposed banning the use of methylene chloride and NMP in paint strippers. According to reports gathered from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other sources, methylene chloride has been linked to more than 50 deaths since 1980. The chemical is also linked to several types of cancers as well as liver, kidney, and reproductive toxicity. According to the EPA, roughly 32,000 workers and 1.3 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride each year. NMP is a developmental and reproductive toxicant. In December 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Deputy Assistant Administrator Nancy Beck, a former chemical industry staffer, indefinitely delayed action on these chemicals under pressure from the chemical lobby.

Methylene chloride has been banned in paint strippers in the EU since 2012, and in February 2018 the European chemicals agency proposed adding NMP to the REACH “authorization” list, which could lead to a ban in the EU.

In November 2017, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store Campaign released its second annual 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.

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Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families leads a coalition of more than 450 organizations and businesses working to safeguard American families from toxic chemicals. The coalition’s Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers like Lowe’s to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute them with safer alternatives.

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.

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