First U.S. retailer to act following multiple deaths and EPA inaction
(Charlotte, NC) Today the home improvement retailer Lowe’s announced that it would phase out the use of two toxic chemicals known as methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in its paint removal products sold globally by the end of this year. Lowe’s becomes the first major U.S. retailer to commit to ending the sale of such products, which have been found to pose unacceptable health risks, including cancer, harm to the nervous system and childhood development, and even death.
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store Campaign Director Mike Schade issued the following statement in response to the announcement by Lowe’s:
“We congratulate Lowe’s for its outstanding leadership in phasing out the sale of these toxic paint strippers. We thank Lowe’s for being the first retailer to take action on this critical consumer and worker safety issue. When complete, the removal of dangerous paint strippers from the shelves at Lowe’s and other stores will be a huge victory for the families who have lost loved ones to methylene chloride and for the more than 200,000 consumers across the country who signed petitions demanding action. It shows the power of both consumers and retailers to drive dangerous chemicals out of the marketplace. When facing federal inaction on vital issues facing the American public—some of which are matters of life or death—retailers have a responsibility and an opportunity to do right by their customers. Lowe’s has set the pace for the rest of the retail sector with its announcement today. The company’s actions will also help drive the development of safer green chemistry solutions.
We now urge other top retailers like The Home Depot, Walmart, and Menards to join Lowe’s in banning these dangerous products. If Lowe’s can commit to end the sale of these toxic products, so can its competitors. When will they match Lowe’s leadership?
Lowe’s action begins to fill a vacuum left by EPA’s failure under Administrator Scott Pruitt to finalize a ban on the use of these chemicals in paint strippers that EPA first proposed in January 2017. Today’s announcement by Lowe’s underscores the urgency for the EPA to finalize its proposed ban on both methylene chloride and NMP in paint strippers. Since the EPA first proposed action on these two chemicals, at least four consumers have died while working with methylene chloride-based paint strippers.”
Methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 deaths nationwide since 1980. At least four of these deaths have occurred 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. According to the EPA, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and 2 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.
Lowe’s announced its new policy amid a national campaign led by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, NRDC, and other national and state coalition partners. More than 200,000 consumers nationwide have signed petitions urging Lowe’s to act over the past two months. In early May, advocates held a week of action in more than a dozen states demanding that Lowe’s act on methylene chloride. 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 one of their customers.
In January 2017, the EPA proposed banning paint strippers containing these chemicals under the newly strengthened Toxic Substances Control Act, citing the products’ unreasonable risks to human health. Under pressure from the chemical industry, the agency has yet to finalize the ban. Two days after EPA Administrator Pruitt met with families who have lost loved ones due to methylene chloride exposure, the EPA announced that it would finalize the methylene chloride rule. However the agency has revealed few details on the regulatory action it plans to take.
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.