But Canada’s government, like the United States’, refuses to formally ban the toxic chemicals.
A Canadian home-improvement giant, Canadian Tire, is the latest to commit to removing deadly paint strippers containing methylene chloride and N-methylpyrroliodone (NMP) from its shelves. The public health win comes after a wave of U.S.-based stores agreed to stop selling the chemicals over the summer.
“At a time when consumers are increasingly frustrated by weak regulations on toxics in consumer products, we welcome Canadian Tire’s commitment to keep consumers safe from these two harmful chemicals,” says Muhannad Malas, the toxics program manager with Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental advocacy group that, alongside NRDC and partners, has long pushed for a ban on NMP and methylene chloride paint strippers. The two chemicals can cause liver toxicity, cancer, nervous system damage, and even fatal heart attacks—in fact, dozens of deaths have been linked to methylene chloride.
The wave of company-led public health moves is a stark contrast to the inaction by both the U.S. and Canadian governments. Canada, which classified methylene chloride as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act two decades ago, has yet to take further action to regulate its sale—or even put sufficient warnings on products. And going against the scientific findings of both U.S. and international regulators, Canada also determined that NMP did not meet the legal definition of “toxic” to human health.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has yet to take action toward a formal ban—though it estimates more than 60,000 U.S. workers and two million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP every year.
“Governments in Canada and the United States must step up to ban these chemicals from paint strippers and other consumer products that pose a risk to people’s health,” says Sujatha Bergen, a policy specialist with NRDC. “These exemplary actions by Canadian Tire and other companies are leaving no excuse for government inaction.”