May 29, 2018 -- Hardware store Lowe’s is the first major retailer to agree to stop selling paint-stripping products that contain toxic chemical solvents blamed for dozens of deaths in the U.S., including four since last February. The chain has pledged to rid its shelves of products containing the two chemicals -- methylene chloride and n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) -- by the end of the year.
The company’s statement comes just weeks after the EPA announced it would finalize a proposed ban on methylene chloride for consumer uses.
Methylene chloride has been banned for most uses in Europe since 2011. Fumes from the solvent can replace oxygen in the blood, stopping the heart. People who work with products containing methylene chloride without enough ventilation can quickly be overcome.
NMP is a frequent replacement for methylene chloride, and it is very risky for pregnant women. Just one day of exposure raises the chance of death to a fetus. It can also make men and women less fertile. Over time, NMP can damage the nervous system.
Last January, using new powers, the EPA proposed a ban on both chemicals. Under the Trump administration, those bans were placed on hold.
Earlier this month, after intense congressional questioning, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency would act to finalize the ban on methylene chloride.
Consumer and environmental advocates hailed today’s announcement.
“Lowe's is acting to save lives by pulling these products from the shelf,” Sujatha Jahagirdar, policy specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement emailed to reporters. She called on other major retailers such as Home Depot and Amazon to follow suit.