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Paint thinner killed some who used it — including SC man. EPA now bans chemical in it

Toxic Paint Removers- Safer Alternatives

Methylene chloride (dichloromethane) is a widely used solvent that can cause serious illness or death when used in enclosed spaces. It is a cancer-causing chemical that is used in paint strippers.
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Methylene chloride (dichloromethane) is a widely used solvent that can cause serious illness or death when used in enclosed spaces. It is a cancer-causing chemical that is used in paint strippers.

In October 2017, Drew Wynne died while using paint stripper on the floor of his coffee shop in North Charleston, South Carolina, TV station WCSC reports. The coroner identified the fumes from methylene chloride, an ingredient in the paint remover, as the cause of death, according to WCSC.

The Environmental Protection Agency banned consumer sales of the chemical, the agency said in a recent press release, but companies will still be allowed to use methylene chloride. The EPA linked the move directly to Wynne’s death and others, saying it is banning the sale to consumers “because of the acute fatalities that have resulted from exposure to the chemical.”

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, an environmental health organization, said “at least 64 people have died from acute exposure to methylene chloride since 1980,” USA Today reports.

The EPA proposed the ban on methylene chloride in 2017, along with regulations for NMP, an alternative chemical used to strip paint, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“We answered the call from many affected families to ensure that no other family experiences the death of someone close to them due to this chemical,” EPA assistant administrator for chemical safety Alexandra Dunn said Friday, according to the Washington Post.

Some national chains like Lowe’s and Home Depot have already pulled products with methylene chloride from their shelves, the Post reports.

The EPA did not ban NMP with the new rules, which USA Today described as “an alternative for methylene chloride that medical experts say can cause birth defects and reproductive issues.”

While the ban covers consumer purchases, that may not stop all deaths. Kevin Hartley, 21, died while using the chemical at work to clean a bathtub, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“Getting this deadly chemical out of consumers’ hands is a step in the right direction – a step that was started by retailers nationwide. Workers who use methylene chloride will now be left unprotected and at risk of health issues or death. I will continue my fight until the EPA does its job,” Hartley’s mother Wendy said, according to the Free Press.

Companies will have 60 days to comment on the new rules, which will take effect 180 days after the rules are officially published, according to the EPA. The agency is also asking for input on whether it should require companies to give specific training to workers who use the chemical, the EPA says.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.

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