Nationwide actions urge ban on toxic methylene chloride after four consumers died since EPA proposed restrictions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Environmental health advocates from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and other groups today kicked off a week of action in more than a dozen states demanding that Lowe’s home improvement stores remove paint strippers containing a deadly chemical, methylene chloride, from its store shelves nationwide. Activists and community members will demonstrate with signs featuring photos of methylene chloride victims, share information about the dangers of methylene chloride and another toxic chemical called N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) with Lowe’s customers, and speak with store employees and management about their concerns. Groups and activists are holding grassroots actions 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, D.C. this week to meet with members of Congress and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to demand that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalize a pending ban on the use of these toxic chemicals in paint stripper products:

  • Drew Wynne, 31, died in October 2017 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. Drew’s mother and brother will meet with members of the South Carolina and North Carolina delegations.
  • 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. Kevin’s mother and grandmother will meet with members of the Tennessee delegation.
  • Joshua Atkins, 31, died in February 2018 while refinishing his BMX bike with a paint stripper containing methylene chloride at his home in Pennsylvania. Joshua’s mother will meet with members of the Pennsylvania delegation.

Lauren Atkins, Joshua’s mother, said, “Not one more mother should go through what I’ve been going through. 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 the EPA first proposed its ban and advocates asked Lowe’s and The Home Depot to cease sale of these paint strippers. The chemical is also linked to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) impacts fetal development and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.

In 2017, the EPA proposed banning paint strippers containing these chemicals, citing the products’ unreasonable risks to consumers. Under pressure from the chemical industry, the agency has yet to finalize 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.”

This week of action is led by the national environmental health group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. 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 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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