Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Paint Stripper Chemical Bans Delayed Even After Recent Tragic Deaths From Product

A proposed federal ban on a potentially deadly chemical found in common paint strippers may be on hold indefinitely. The EPA says methylene chloride a chemical banned in Europe since 2012 poses an unreasonable risk and has been implicated in dozens of deaths. According to the Environment Defense Fund, more than 50 deaths have been attributed to exposure of methylene chloride. Three deaths were reported in 2017. The agency proposed a ban in January 2017, but postponed it late last year.

Who Is Affected?

Methylene chloride is a commonly used paint stripper found in hardware stores and it's possibly in your garage right now. After a young man from Charleston, South Carolina died last October resurfacing the floor of a walk-in refrigerator his family says no label could ever let people know how dangerous it is. 31 year old Drew Wynne was using a paint stripper, Goof Off, manufactured by company W.M. Barr. when he was overcome by the fumes of the product. The coroner's report concluded he was incapacitated by toxic fumes and the cause of death was acute methylene chloride toxicity.

The family is asking for this chemical to be banned immediately "The pain runs deep. Not only for me but for my husband and my other two sons," Cindy Wynne said. It's deadly but found in stripping products on store shelves across the country, something Drew's brother Brian quickly learned. "I was shocked. I mean, how is it that you can find something that will kill you instantly and buy it, just off the shelf?" Brian said. Watch an interview with the family after the incident here

What's Being Done?

The Ann Arbor Ecology Center has renewed efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of methylene chloride. They are asking home improvement retailers to stop selling products that contain this chemical by circulating a petition and reaching out directly to retailers. Cans of methylene chloride paint strippers bear a prominent warning label including phrases like "Inhalation of vapors may cause death." The cans also contain extensive safe use instructions. However, the instructions are often widely ignored, and are themselves inadequate. "You are not able to safely use these products because the precautions required to be taken, and the personal protective equipment that would be required, is just not commonly available. It would require training to remotely be able to safely use the products," says Jeff Gearhart, Research Director for the Ann Arbor Ecology Center.

Recent deaths have also occurred in Tennessee and California. Kevin Hartley, a 21-year-old from Nashville, died while refinishing a bathtub in April 2017. He was using a commercial product called White Lightning Low Odor Stripper. In June, a worker stripping a bathtub with Jasco Premium Paint & Epoxy Remover in Huntington Park, CA, died from methylene chloride poisoning.

What Can You Do?

One thing consumers can do is only purchase safer alternatives when looking for paint strippers. Show retailers there is a high demand for non-toxic paint removers and toxic paint strippers are no longer wanted on consumers shelves! Be diligent when researching your preferred paint removal product. Your health is worth the time to look up the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the product you want to use. SDS info can help you make sure the product you want to use is the right removal method for your project and you have the right safety equipment to use it safely.

For more information on safe paint removers and strippers visit 

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