Earlier this week, VPIRG held a press conference outside of the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in South Burlington as part of a national “Mind the Store” campaign urging Lowe’s to stop selling deadly paint strippers. Executive Director Paul Burns made brief remarks outside of the store and presented the store manager with a letter requesting action on this issue.
Last year, 31-year-old South Carolinian Drew Wynne died from inhaling toxic chemicals in paint stripper he bought at Lowe’s to refinish his floor. Methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) – the highly toxic chemicals commonly found in paint strippers sold on Lowe’s shelves – have killed at least four people in the past year, and more than 50 people since 1980.
According to the EPA, over 60,000 workers and 2 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP every year from paint strippers.
Methylene chloride is linked to liver and lung cancer, as well as liver, kidney and reproductive toxicity. NMP, marketed as a safer alternative to methylene chloride, is very concerning for pregnant women and women of child-bearing age, as it has been linked to miscarriage and other fetal developmental effects. EPA’s analysis found that just one day of use can cause fetal death (miscarriage or stillbirth).
Methylene chloride has been banned from paint strippers in the European Union since 2012, and NMP is currently under close consideration for a ban there as well.
Last year, the EPA proposed banning the use of methylene chloride and NMP in paint strippers, but recently the agency has backed off under pressure from the chemical industry.
And we’re seeing a similarly troubling trend here in Vermont. Just a couple weeks ago, Governor Phil Scott vetoed S.103, toxic chemical reform legislation that would have better protected Vermont’s children and communities from toxins in children’s products and drinking water. This was a terrible decision that put industry interests over the health and well-being of Vermont’s children, communities and environment.
“We clearly cannot look to the federal government to protect U.S. consumers from toxins in paint strippers or any other products. But in the absence of federal leadership, retailers like Lowe’s can make a difference in protecting consumers just like Lowe’s did when it banned phthalates in vinyl flooring and neonicotinoids in pesticides,” said Paul Burns.