Statement from Liz Hitchcock, Wendy Hartley, and Lauren Atkins

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicated that it will finalize a long-delayed ban on the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers for consumer use by advancing the measure to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final approval.

In response, Liz Hitchcock, Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families issued the following statement:

“This step by the EPA is due in large part to brave and relentless advocacy by the families of methylene chloride victims. Despite their pain, they shared their loved ones’ stories time and again until decision makers listened.

Since EPA first proposed this ban on deadly paint strippers nearly two years ago, at least four people have died from exposures to these products. While we are pleased that the EPA is following the lead of the eleven retailers who have committed to removing these products from store shelves nationwide, we are extremely disappointed by indications that the measure will not protect thousands of workers whose lives and health are in danger as they come into contact with methylene chloride on the job.

EPA should do its job and protect all Americans from the dangers of methylene chloride.”

Wendy Hartley, whose son Kevin Hartley, 21, died after using a paint stripper containing methylene chloride on the job stated:

“While I’m thankful that the EPA is moving forward and following the lead of nationwide retailers, it’s only a small step needed to protect Americans and save lives. Workers who use methylene chloride daily are at an increased risk of death and continuous health issues. The data is there and undeniable, as we families know first-hand how deadly methylene chloride is.

How many more deaths are needed before the EPA will do the right thing and protect all Americans?”

Lauren Atkins, whose son Joshua Atkins, 31, died while using a paint stripper containing methylene chloride at home stated:

“It doesn’t matter how or why someone is using these toxic chemicals, whether it be for personal projects or commercial use. These chemicals take lives and destroy others.  The EPA needs to follow the lead of many of our major nationwide retailers, as well as other countries that have banned these chemicals.

No one else should have to bury their loved one because of these products. It’s time the EPA follow through with the ban that they proposed in January 2017. No amount of monetary gain by the chemical industry is worth the life of a loved one.”

BACKGROUND

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 its ban last year, at least four people in the U.S. have died while working with methylene chloride-based paint strippers. NMP, which is sometimes 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.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the country’s principal chemical safety law, requires EPA to regulate chemicals that present an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. In January 2017, the Obama EPA determined that methylene chloride places consumers, workers, and bystanders at unreasonable risk of injury and proposed to ban its use in paint strippers. The agency also proposed banning or restricting the use of NMP in paint strippers. In May 2018, EPA promised to finalize the methylene chloride ban “shortly.”

In October 2018, a Latino worker group, environmental and public health advocates including Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the mothers of two young men who recently died from methylene chloride exposure notified the Trump administration of their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to finalize a ban on the use of the lethal chemical in paint strippers.

In the absence of federal action and in the face of mounting pressure from families and advocates, eleven major U.S. home improvement and auto parts retailers took action throughout 2018 to protect their customers from the chemical, announcing plans to ban methylene chloride-based paint strippers from thousands of store shelves nationwide and around the world.

Timeline of retailer policy commitments on toxic paint strippers:

  • May 2018: Lowe’s becomes the first major U.S. retailer to commit to ending sales of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP globally by the end of 2018.
  • June 2018: Sherwin-Williams, the nation’s largest specialty retailer of paint and paint supplies, announces it is 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. A few days later, The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, announces it will ban the sale of toxic paint strippers in all of its stores by the end of 2018.
  • August 2018: Walmart announces it will ban toxic paint strippers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and on walmart.com by February 2019.
  • September 2018: Canadian Tire commits to ban paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of 2018.
  • October 2018: AutoZone, PPG, and Kelly Moore Paints disclose they are banning toxic paint strippers.
  • November 2018: Home Hardware and True Value announce they are banning the sale of toxic paint strippers. Amazon.com posts a new policy prohibiting the sale of methylene chloride and NMP in all paint stripper products it sells, effective March 2019.

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