Lowe's to ban paint stripper made with potentially dangerous chemicals

Lowe's to ban paint stripper made with potentially dangerous chemicals
Under pressure from an environmental group, Mooresville-based Lowe's announced Tuesday that it is banning paint thinners made with chemicals that advocates describe as deadly. (The Charlotte Observer)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Katherine Peralta/ The Charlotte Observer)- Under pressure from an environmental group, Mooresville-based Lowe's announced Tuesday that it is banning paint-stripping products made with methylene chloride and NMP, which advocates describe as deadly chemicals.

Lowe's said it will phase out the products by the end of the year. In a statement, the home improvement chain said it encourages other retailers to do the same. Lowe's said it will continue to work with the Environmental Protection Agency "on a consistent regulatory standard."

"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 Mike McDermott, Lowe's chief customer officer.

The nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council has urged the EPA to issue a comprehensive ban on paint thinners that contain methylene chloride. It has been pressuring retailers including Lowe's and its chief rival, Home Depot, to ban the products.

In a March letter to Lowe's, NRDC said methylene chloride turns to carbon monoxide in the body and can threaten customers with rapid asphyxiation and heart attacks. NRDC said it collected 200,000 signatures from consumers supporting a ban of the products at Lowe's stores.

"Lowe's is showing leadership as the first major U.S. retailer to eliminate methylene chloride paint strippers from its stores. It underscores the failure of this EPA to do its job to protect the American public from dangerous toxic chemicals," said Sujatha Jahagirdar, policy specialist with the NRDC.

Lowe's also said it has taken a few additional safety-related steps.

The company said it is working with the EPA, non-government organizations and vendors to bring to market safe and effective alternates to the banned paint thinners. Lowe's said it's also working to improve labeling on packaging to illustrate the correct use of the products. Additionally, Lowe's is has added more safety information to its website about proper use of methylene chloride.

This isn't the first time Lowe's has taken products off its shelves for safety reasons.

In spring 2015, for instance, Lowe's said it would ban products that contain potentially dangerous chemicals called phthalates by the end of the year. The announcement from Lowe's came a month after a similar move by rival Home Depot.