Despite pledging to remove paint strippers containing the toxic chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) from their shelves, many stores in Pennsylvania and other states are still carrying these dangerous products, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Eleven national retailers across North America pledged to stop selling the products in question by the end of 2018. Now the NRDC says that many of them have failed to implement those commitments.
The retailers agreed to ban the sale of these paint thinners in their stores as part of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign. Since May of 2018, Lowes, The Home Depot, Sherwin-Williams, Walmart, PPG Paints, True Value, Kelly Moore Paints, AutoZone, Home Hardware, Canadian Tire and Amazon.com have all hopped on board, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s lack of action in a government ban.
The EPA initially proposed the ban in 2017, but it has been caught up in political red tape ever since. According to the EPA, products containing methylene chloride and NMP pose “unreasonable risk to human health.” It estimates that more than 60,000 U.S. workers and upwards of 2 million consumers are exposed to the chemicals each year. Since 1980, methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 fatalities and is thought to contribute to cancers of the liver and lungs and to reproductive toxicity and neurotoxicity. NMP, often used as a methylene chloride substitute, can cause miscarriage and stillbirth and may impact fetal development. Since the proposal of the ban in 2017, at least four people in the United States have died while working with these paint strippers.
An NRDC study of 42 stores across 11 states found that 62 percent of stores across the board that had pledged to stop selling the products in question still have them on their shelves. In two instances, stores were intentionally selling the remaining stock of the paint thinners in inventory containing methylene chloride and/or NMP. Some of the stores were also found to be selling them both in their brick-and-mortar locations and on their websites. Of the visited stores, only the Lowes stores no longer had the products on their shelves. Notably, Lowes was the first store to agree to remove these toxic products from its stores when this worthy initiative began.
One mother who helped the NRDC with the study has a personal stake in the seeing these dangerous products removed from store shelves. Lauren Atkins son Joshua died after using Rust-Oleum Aircraft Remover. During Atkins’ visits to her area stores, she found AutoZone selling the product that killed her son at 70-percent off its original price. She went on to find products still for sale at Sherwin-Williams and Home Depot.
Consumers, say the NRDC, must remain vigilant when purchasing paint thinning products and look for safer alternatives, including safer products and paint removal techniques.