Home remodeling shouldn’t be a deadly project: Toxic paint removers being sold by Lowe’s and other stores

No one should lose a loved one to deadly chemicals. But right now you can walk into Lowe’s and other stores and buy paint removers containing highly toxic chemicals.

Dev Gowda

No one should lose a loved one to deadly chemicals. But right now you can walk into Lowe’s and other stores and buy paint removers containing highly toxic chemicals.

At only 31 years old, Drew Wynne’s life was cut short when he inhaled a toxic paint remover containing methylene chloride, which he bought at Lowe’s to refinish a floor. The Wynne family was featured in a CBS This Morning story last week.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund joins Drew’s family, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling on Lowe’s to stop selling paint strippers made with methylene chloride and the chemical N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (“NMP”). Long-term exposure to methylene chloride has been linked to liver toxicity as well as liver and lung cancer. But even short-term exposure to methylene chloride can be deadly. NMP exposure puts women of childbearing age and pregnant women at risk of harm to their fetuses. It has been linked to miscarriage, fetal death, decreased birth weight, and other fetal developmental effects.

It’s absurd that we’re even talking about selling something that can kill you, when there are safe alternatives already on the shelves right next to the deadly products. We have the technology to create safe products that don’t kill us, and those products are on the market. This should not even be a debate.

Here’s a snippet of what Drew’s family has said about him:

Our son Drew garnered attention with his quick wit, booming voice and incredible smile. When he loved something, he put his full heart into it and did so with focus. His establishment of a coffee business from the ground up with a friend is a perfect example. Drew loved every second of refining his craft and building his business. In October 2017, the lives of family and friends who knew and loved Drew took a dramatic turn.

In a trip to Lowe’s to buy some paint stripper to re-finish a floor in his coffee plant, Drew purchased the chemical that killed him. The next day, he was found collapsed on the floor. The coroner’s autopsy report found that toxic methylene chloride fumes from the paint stripper were to blame. 

To this day, you can walk into Lowe’s and buy the same product that killed Drew—plus numerous others containing the same chemical. [Cindy and Hal Wynne]

Many other families have learned about methylene chloride’s effects the same way that the Wynne family did. According to reports from OSHA and other sources, paint strippers containing methylene chloride have been linked to more than 50 deaths across the country since 1980.

In January 2017, the EPA proposed banning methylene chloride and NMP in paint strippers. But in December the Trump administration backed off under pressure from the chemical industry. In Europe methylene chloride was banned from paint removers in 2012.

It’s hard to believe that Lowe’s is still selling these products even though there are safer alternatives. Join us in calling on Lowe’s to stop selling dangerous paint removers, so that another DIY project doesn’t result in a tragic death.


Dev Gowda