Family pushes ban of common paint stripper chemical linked to son's death and others

Calls for ban of chemical ingredient stalled with EPA

Manufacturers say products containing methylene chloride are safe when used properly. But more than 50 deaths are linked to toxic exposure from the chemical ingredient over a fifteen year period according to the Environmental Defense Fund, three in 2017.

Methylene chloride is in many popular paint strippers and solvents for cleaning auto parts. You can find the products at home improvement and hardware stores.

31 year old Drew Wynne of Charleston was cleaning the floor of his business warehouse last fall with a paint stripping product when he was overcome by fumes and incapacitated. According to the coroner's report the cause of death was acute dichloromethane and methanol toxicity, a result of being exposed to methylene chloride which is an ingredient in Goof Off and other commonly used paint strippers.

Drew's family says he was wearing gloves and using a respirator. They are pushing for a ban of the chemical ingredient.

Critics say the average consumer doesn't realize how dangerous the products can be and the government has been aware of safety issues for decades. Proper ventilation when using the products is crucial. One expert ABC 33/40 spoke with said only use these products outside away from children and the elderly.

"I wouldn't use them inside the house at all," explains Michelle Fanucchi, PhD, UAB Department of Environmental Health Sciences. She says in high doses the fumes can irritate your eyes, cause coughing and interfere with red blood cells and how your body transports oxygen. The products can burn your skin, so you need to be sure you are wearing adequate protective gear.

Proper safety gloves, protective suits and respirators can be expensive for the general public. "The cheap disposable gloves won't protect you," remarks Fanucchi. When buying gloves look on the back of the packaging and you will find a table showing which chemicals the gloves are rated for.

Most importantly, consumers need to take the time to read all warning and safety labels before using any chemical products. There are less toxic, safer products on the market but they don't work as well or as quickly according to Fanucchi.

The chemical industry has opposed a ban on the products, instead supporting better labels to help consumers understand the potential danger.

EPA Risk Management for use of Methylene Chloride:

ABC 33/40 received this email response from an EPA spokesperson concerning proposals for stricter regulation:

"The Agency is currently considering the comments received in response to the 2016 proposals, including comments suggesting that EPA quickly finalize these actions and comments suggesting that these actions be evaluated as part of the group of the first ten chemicals undergoing initial risk evaluations under the Lautenberg amendments to TSCA."

Contact Poison Control if you have questions about a specific product: 1-800-222-1222

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