Lowe’s Is Dropping Certain Kinds of Paint Strippers Blamed for Cancer Deaths

May 30, 2018, 3:33 PM UTC

Lowe’s will stop carrying paint strippers containing two chemicals that environmental and public health activists say are to blame for dozens of deaths and are linked to brain cancer. Products containing methylene chloride and NMP will be off Lowe’s shelves by the end of the year, the company announced in a statement.

“We care deeply about the health and safety of our customers, and great progress is being made in the development of safer and more effective alternatives,” said Lowe’s chief customer officer Mike McDermott. “As a home improvement leader, we recognize the need for viable paint removal products and remain committed to working closely with suppliers to further innovate in this category.”

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A growing wave of advocates had been pressuring Lowe’s to ditch the paint removal products. Methylene chloride has been linked to at least 50 deaths, according to a letter the Learning Disabilities Center of Maine recently sent to Lowe’s stores in the state urging a halt on sales, and may be associated with a higher risk of lung cancer. The other chemical, NMP (or N-Methylpyrrolidone), can harm developing fetuses and has even been linked to miscarriages.

The group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which led protests at Lowe’s locations to lobby for the paint strippers’ removal, praised the retailer’s decision in a statement. “When facing federal inaction on vital issues facing the American public—some of which are matters of life or death—retailers have a responsibility and an opportunity to do right by their customers,” said Mike Schade, the outfit’s Mind the Store campaign director. “Lowe’s has set the pace for the rest of the retail sector with its announcement today.”

Regulators may eventually have forced Lowe’s hand had the company not decided to act on its own. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this month that it would move forward to finalize rules prohibiting methylene chloride’s use in commercial and consumer products.


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