Nation & World

Groups petition Lowe's to ban paint stripper

EPA has linked exposure to damage to the central nervous system, cancer

Dreamstime/TNS

Environmental groups and the family of a man who died last year from exposure to fumes from an off-the-shelf paint stripper are petitioning Lowe’s stores to stop selling products containing a chemical compound blamed for at least 56 deaths since 1980.
Dreamstime/TNS Environmental groups and the family of a man who died last year from exposure to fumes from an off-the-shelf paint stripper are petitioning Lowe’s stores to stop selling products containing a chemical compound blamed for at least 56 deaths since 1980.

Environmental groups and the family of a man who died last year from exposure to fumes from an off-the-shelf paint stripper are petitioning Lowe’s Home Improvement stores to stop selling products containing a chemical compound blamed for at least 56 deaths since 1980.

North Carolina-based Lowe’s is one of many home improvement and hardware retailers that sell the strippers, made under several labels by a company in Tennessee.

The family of a South Carolina man who died last October from exposure to the chemical has said he bought the stripper he used at Lowe’s.

The compound is methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, and it’s an active ingredient in several Klean Strip, Goof Off and Jasco products, all made by W.M. Barr in Memphis, Tenn.

W.M. Barr has argued in lawsuits that products containing the compound are safe if used as directed and, because methylene chloride alone is not flammable, strippers that contain it are safer than some other stripping compounds.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found short-term exposures to the compound can be toxic to the central nervous system, and long-term exposures can cause liver toxicity, liver cancer and lung cancer.

Some people exposed to methylene chloride in enclosed spaces have been overcome and collapsed within seconds or minutes.

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The not-for-profit, nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity found in 2015 that at least 56 people had died from exposure to methylene chloride.

Rachel Estes, climate and energy policy manager for the N.C. Conservation Network in Raleigh, said that group is petitioning Lowe’s because it’s a North Carolina company and it has been willing in the past to remove products containing toxic chemicals.

“If the federal government is not going to lead, then we need to make sure that the industry will,” she said.

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