Companies continue to step up, even as the EPA does nothing.
First was Lowe’s, then Sherwin-Williams. And now Home Depot, the largest home-improvement store in the world, has committed to removing deadly paint strippers containing methylene chloride and N-methylpyrroliodone (NMP) from its shelves.
“We’re glad that the private sector is finally starting to take action on these dangerous chemicals,” says Sujatha Bergen, a policy analyst with NRDC, which, with partners, has long pushed for a ban on paint strippers containing NMP and methylene chloride. 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 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which, under Scott Pruitt, indefinitely delayed an Obama-era ban on the chemicals. Since then, Pruitt has met with the families of victims, promising action but not delivering. "The EPA must stop dragging their feet and ban these toxic hazards once and for all so that no other family has to suffer," Bergen says. According to the EPA, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and two million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP every year.
“The Home Depot realizes they're on the front line of consumer discontent with product safety,” says Mike Belliveau, executive director of Environmental Health Strategy Center and senior advisor to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “When the government says a chemical threatens human health, market leaders like the Home Depot rightly respond. And when the market begins an early exit, it’s time for the EPA to finalize a toxic chemical ban to sweep up the laggards.”