The Clean Water Blog

Thank you Lowe’s: Toxic paint strippers going, going….!

From May 6th through May 11th, 2018, consumers from around the country visited their local Lowe’s home improvement stores as a part of the “Mind the Store’s” Week of Action to urge Lowe’s to remove harmful chemicals from its products – in particular, methylene chloride commonly found in paint strippers. Massachusetts’ Clean Water Action staff Kadineyse Paz, Laura Spark, and myself went to Lowe’s in Braintree, MA to partake in this campaign on May 10th (pictured above).  

In the Lowe's in Dedham we had Clean Water Action New England Director Cindy Luppi join a longtime activist and her “Medfield teens;” this group is always up for a battle. We also had Lori an ally of ours and influencer through her Groovy Green Living blog highlight the importance of this campaign for so many families across the country.

Lowe’s recently released a statement saying that they will phase out the sale of paint strippers that contain cancer-causing chemicals, like methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) by the end of the year. These chemicals are dangerous for consumers, and can even cause death. Since 1980, methylene chloride has been linked to over 50 deaths. In the last two years, three deaths have been highlighted and associated with the usage of toxic paint strippers containing methylene chloride that have sparked the “Mind the Store’s” campaign targeting Lowe’s.

In April 2017, Kevin Hartley was stripping a bathtub for his family’s contracting business in Tennessee when he passed away using a paint stripper containing methylene chloride. Shortly after, Drew Wynne passed away in October 2017 in South Carolina. Drew was working on renovating his coffee brewing business in South Carolina when he passed away after using a paint stripper containing methylene chloride, purchased at Lowe’s. Joshua Atkins was refinishing his BMX bike with a paint stripper at his home in Pennsylvania, and passed away from the exposure to methylene chloride in the paint strippers. With three related and preventable deaths within the past two years, Mind the Store and activists decided that action needed to be taken.

During “The Week of Action” constituents visited and called their local Lowe’s to inform managers about the toxic paint strippers they sell, and the deaths that were associated with these products – many just as tragic as Drew’s. Constituents also wrote letters to their store managers and delivered them in person. Groups and activists took grassroots actions in California, Conneticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and many other states. We standed with this campaign because the more than 50 deaths could have been prevented! More than 60,000 U.S. workers and 2 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.[1] We need to urge other companies like Lowe’s to remove the toxic paint strippers from their shelves to protect the health of consumers and to ensure deaths like Drew, Kevin, and Joshua’s, never happen again.  

Lauren Atkins, Joshua’s mother, said, “Not one more mother should go through what I’ve been going through. The EPA should protect Americans from methylene chloride and ban it in paint strippers. Retailers should protect their customers and stop selling these products. My son shouldn’t have died this way and no one else should lose a loved one to these deadly products.”[2]

We all here in Massachusetts feel strongly about the avoidable losses that families have faced and are so happy that our participation, along with so many others across the country, was able to have such a big impact on eliminating toxic products from Lowe's store shelves.


[1] Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2017, January 19). Methylene Chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone; Regulation of Certain Uses Under TSCA Section 6(a). Retrieved May 21, 2018, from

[2] Mind the Store. (2018, May 7). Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families: A national effort to protect families from toxic chemicals. Retrieved May 24, 2018, from