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Paint Firm, Box Stores Phase Out Paint Stripper

Friday, June 22, 2018

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Over the course of a week, coatings manufacturer The Sherwin-Williams Company and one of the United States’ largest home-improvement stores announced they will be phasing out the sale of paint strippers based on methylene chloride, a chemical linked with health problems and, in some cases, death.

Sherwin-Williams announced its change via a memo last Friday (July 15) from Corporate Communications Director Mike Conway, as well as with a tweet, which said, “Our customers are our #1 priority at Sherwin-Williams, so we are eliminating methylene chloride paint strippers from our stores. We have several effective alternatives available to serve your project needs.”

Paint stripping
USMC / Cpl. Rubin J. Tan

In early 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule prohibiting the manufacture, import, processing and distribution of methylene chloride and NMP in commerce, with a few exemptions.

The announcement came days after a letter was penned to the company—by groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and Mind the Store—urging it to “take immediate action to phase out the sale of paint removers that contain the chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP).”

Conway’s statement detailed that Sherwin only had two paint-stripping products that contained methylene chloride and that they do not have any products on the shelf that contain NMP.

On Monday, Home Depot announced that it would phase out paint removers containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of this calendar year. Lowe’s, the nation’s other major home-improvement box store, had announced late last month that it would be doing the same.

The only methylene chloride product currently listed on the Home Depot’s website is a sprayable paint stripper in the Klean Strip line, manufactured by W.M. Barr.

EPA Action

In early 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule prohibiting the manufacture, import, processing and distribution of methylene chloride and NMP in commerce, with a few exemptions, including commercial furniture refinishing.

In May, after more than a year of delays, the EPA signaled that it will move forward with the ban on the chemical.

Methylene chloride was blamed for the death of a worker in Illinois in 2012 as he was cleaning out a tank previously used to store the chemical. In 2015, a California paintmaker was made to pay nearly $1 million to the families of two workers who suffered asphyxiation after exposure to methylene chloride; one of the workers died on the scene of that incident, in 2011.

Industry Response

While consumer and environmental groups, and relatives of individuals killed or sickened by exposure to the chemical, have lobbied hard for the ban, some industry groups argue that methylene chloride still has a place in paint removal when safely handled.

“When used as directed, [methylene chloride strippers] are the best products for efficient and effective paint removal,” the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, which produces the chemical, said in a statement earlier this month. “These paint strippers have been safely used by consumers for more than 60 years.”

The HSIA noted that it does support a ban on the strippers in bathtub refinishing because the lack of adequate ventilation in such situations.

The American Coatings Association has reportedly come out in opposition to outright bans on the chemicals right now; an organization spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday (June 21).


Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; EPA; Health and safety; Methylene chloride; Regulations

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