Major Retailers Vow to Phase out “Extremely Hazardous” Chemical Linked to Deaths

Major Retailers Vow to Phase out “Extremely Hazardous” Chemical Linked to Deaths
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Three major retailers – Home Depot, Sherwin-Williams, and Lowe’s – have announced that they will no longer sell paint strippers containing a chemical that has been linked to dozens of accidental deaths. [1]

The products on the chopping block contain methylene chloride. Several people have died after inhaling products containing the chemical while using them to refinish bathtubs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

According to a 2012 CDC report, the agency deemed products containing methylene chloride an “extreme hazard” for both professional tub refinishers and people who try to do the job themselves. The CDC confirmed 13 accidental deaths over 11 years, all of them the result of inhaling the products’ fumes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been investigating the risks from methylene chloride for a number of years, but has yet to finalize a rule either limiting or banning the substance.

The agency said in May, 2018 that it will make a decision soon on whether to completely ban methylene chloride, as the Obama administration recommended, or impose other rules such as warning labels.

The group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families has been campaigning to ban the chemical since 1980, blaming methylene chloride on at least 64 deaths.

Frustrated with the slow pace of the EPA’s investigation, health advocates petitioned retailers to stop selling products containing methylene chloride.

Home Depot announced June 19, 2018 that it will phase out products containing methylene chloride and another chemical called N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), (which has been deemed risky for pregnant women) from all of its stores by the end of the year. [1] [2]

In a statement, a campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, said:

“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.” [1]

Sujatha Bergen, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also applauded the retailers’ actions, saying:

“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.” [2]

In a tweet, Sherman-Williams also vowed to phase out methylene chloride-containing products by the end of 2018. [1]

“Our customers are our #1 priority at Sherwin-Williams, so we are eliminating methylene chloride paint strippers from our stores. We have several effective alternatives available to serve your project needs.”

Lowe’s has also pledged to phase out the products, but has yet to set a timeline for when that will occur.

Mike McDermott, Lowe’s chief customer officer, said:

“We care deeply about the health and safety of our customers, and great progress is being made in the development of safer and more effective alternatives.”

Methylene chloride is linked to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. [2]

NMP, which is often substituted for methylene chloride in paint strippers, impacts fetal development and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.

According to the EPA, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and 2 million buyers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.


[1] ABC News

[2] EcoWatch