Amazon.com bans deadly paint strippers, signaling growing trend in retail sector
Advocates call on EPA to finalize proposed ban, protect Americans from toxic products
Washington, D.C., and Portland, Maine — In response to a national public health campaign in which the Portland, Maine-based Environmental Health Strategy Center is a key leader, Amazon.com posted a new policy prohibiting the sale of the toxic chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in all paint stripper products it sells, effective March 2019.
The company is the eleventh major retailer to ban these chemicals since May, joining Lowe’s, Sherwin-Williams, The Home Depot, Walmart, True Value, PPG Paints, AutoZone, Kelly-Moore Paints, Canadian Tire, and Home Hardware. Methylene chloride and NMP have been found to pose unacceptable health risks to the public, including cancer, harm to the nervous system and childhood development, and death.
“We applaud Amazon for prohibiting the sale of these harmful products,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “While Amazon, Lowe’s and other retailers have stepped up, the EPA has dragged its feet and consumers have suffered. The time for EPA inaction is over. How many more people have to die before the Trump EPA finalizes the long-delayed ban?”
Amazon’s new commitment follows the release of the new chemicals policy it launched in October. The policy restricts phthalates and dozens of other toxic chemicals in its private brand baby, household cleaning, personal care, and beauty products in the United States. The company and 39 other top retailers were recently evaluated in the third annual Who’s Minding the Store? retailer report card.
Since 2017, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign has led a national campaign to persuade retailers to phase out the sale of dangerous paint strippers. The campaign recently worked with coalition partners at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Toxic-Free Future, and Environmental Health Strategy Center to encourage Amazon to stop selling these hazardous products. Advocates also sent letters to other top retailers, met with over a dozen companies, organized online petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of consumers, and held a national “week of action” in more than a dozen states. More recently the campaign launched a petition to Ace Hardware, which has been signed by nearly 150,000 people.
In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a ban on paint removers that contain methylene chloride and NMP, citing the products’ unreasonable risks to human health. Deferring to the wishes of the chemical industry, the EPA shelved its proposed ban soon after Scott Pruitt was confirmed as EPA Administrator and the agency has taken no action in 19 months. In May 2018, two days after former Administrator Pruitt met with families who recently lost loved ones due to methylene chloride exposure, the EPA announced that it would finalize a methylene chloride rule “shortly.” However, the agency has revealed few details on its planned regulatory action and has taken no action on NMP. In October, a Latino worker group, environmental and public health advocates, and the mothers of two young men who recently died from methylene chloride exposure notified the Trump administration of their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to finalize a ban on the use of this lethal chemical in paint strippers.
Timeline of retailer policy commitments on toxic paint strippers:
May 2018: Lowe’s became the first major U.S. retailer to commit to ending sales of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP globally by the end of 2018.
June 2018: Sherwin-Williams, the nation’s largest specialty retailer of paint and paint supplies, announces it is phasing out the sale of methylene chloride paint strippers by the end of 2018 and that it will continue to keep NMP paint strippers off its shelves. A few days later, The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, announces it will ban the sale of toxic paint strippers in all of its stores by the end of 2018.
September 2018: Canadian Tire commits to ban paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of 2018.
October 2018: AutoZone, PPG, and Kelly Moore Paints disclose they are banning toxic paint strippers.
November 2018: Home Hardware and True Value announce they are banning the sale of toxic paint strippers. Amazon.com posts a new policy prohibiting the sale of methylene chloride and NMP in all paint stripper products it sells, effective March 2019.
Methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 deaths nationwide since 1980 and is linked to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. Since EPA proposed its ban last year, at least four people in the U.S. have died while working with methylene chloride-based paint strippers. NMP, which is sometimes substituted for methylene chloride in paint removers, impacts fetal development and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. According to the EPA, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and 2 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.
The Environmental Health Strategy Center works for a world where all people are healthy and thriving in a fair and healthy economy. We protect public health by fighting for safe food and drinking water, toxic-free products, and good green manufacturing jobs. We bring the best science and authentic voices to the table to achieve collective impact.
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families leads a nationwide coalition of organizations and businesses working to safeguard American families from toxic chemicals. The group’s Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute them with safer alternatives.