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Michigan health advocates applaud Lowe's decision to phase out hazardous paint strippers

can of paint stripper

Lowe's Home Improvement will stop selling hazardous paint stripper products by the end of the year, and replace them with safer, greener alternatives. That's in response to a nationwide petition campaign by groups including Michigan health advocates.

The products contain methylene chloride and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP). Methylene chloride in particular is considered extremely hazardous. About fifty people have died from exposure to methylene chloride vapors in the U.S. since 1980, according to Ken Rosenman, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University whose research focuses on workplace fatalities. He says that exposure to even a small amount of methylene chloride can be deadly, whether it’s through vapors or skin exposure.

“It’s very heartening that Lowe’s has taken this on a voluntary basis. I’m hoping to see this as a regulatory standard across the country,” says Rosenman.

Jeff Gearhart is with the Ann Arbor Ecology Center. He called Lowe's decision a victory for consumers and workers. But he says this is just the first step in getting hazardous paint strippers off the market. He wants the government to step in and regulate the chemicals.

“In the meantime we'll be challenging all retailers who sell these products including Home Depot, Menard's, Meijer, any of the retailers that sell these type of products, we want them to step up and follow Lowe's lead," he says.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently restarted an effort to ban those products that was suspended a year ago. In January 2017, the EPA proposed prohibiting consumer and commercial paint strippers that contain methylene chloride and NMP under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. In the fall of 2017, the EPA suspended its work on putting that prohibition into effect. It announced re-initiation of those efforts for methylene chloride in a press release on May 10, 2018. NMP was not mentioned.

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