Who has yet to join all these retailers that are protecting consumers’ health? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Following the lead of nearly all major home-improvement retailers, Walmart has now also committed to removing deadly paint strippers containing methylene chloride and N-methylpyrroliodone (NMP) from its shelves. The world’s largest retailer, Walmart will no longer sell these products online or in its U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America stores starting February 2019.
“Walmart’s action to save lives by no longer selling dangerous paint strippers is a significant step forward in protecting public health,” says Sujatha Bergen, a policy specialist at NRDC, which, alongside partners, has long advocated 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. “We look forward to seeing the extension of this ban to all [Walmart’s] operations across the globe,” Bergen says.
The wave of company-led public health moves is a stark contrast to the inaction by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which, under former EPA head Scott Pruitt, indefinitely delayed an Obama-era ban on the chemicals. Though Pruitt later met with the families of victims and promised action, he never delivered. Months later, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler appears no closer to a ban. “We now live in a nation where retailers like Walmart are acting more quickly to protect public health from these toxics than the EPA,” says Bergen. According to the agency, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and two million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP every year.
“Administrator Wheeler needs to protect consumers by banning deadly chemicals in paint strippers,” Bergen says, “unlike his disgraced predecessor who only gave the issue lip service.”