Walmart to phase out methylene chloride and NMP paint strippers

Walmart plans to phase out paint removal products containing methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in many of its stores by early 2019. The retailer said it would eliminate the products by February 2019 from stores in the US, Canada, Mexico and Central America. It will also stop selling them online. The commitment follows similar pledges by retail giants Lowe’s, Sherwin-Williams and Home Depot, which plan to phase out the sale of the paint strippers by December. Walmart’s Japanese and South African stores will continue to sell them after February, although the retailer said it is considering phasing out sales in both countries. The products are not sold in its outlets in the UK, China and Chile. Zach Freeze, a senior director at Walmart, said the retailer was committed to providing “access to affordable, effective and more sustainable products” and would continue to work with suppliers, NGOs, academics, government and industry stakeholders to advance its sustainable chemistry commitments. Walmart has said that by 2022 it plans to reduce chemicals of concern in its retail products by 10%. Its policy focuses on household cleaning, personal care, baby, pet, beauty and cosmetic products.

‘Growing trend’ 

Campaigners from consumer advocacy groups have put pressure on retailers to ban methylene chloride and NMP following a number of deaths in the last few years. The Mind the Store NGO campaign has encouraged retailers to phase out chemicals of high concern that it says are neglected by federal agencies, including the two solvents. Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of the NGO Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF), said: “Walmart’s actions signal a growing trend in the retail sector. Businesses are stepping up to ban harmful chemicals in the absence of federal leadership from the US Environmental Protection Agency.” Walmart should “finish the job” by banning the chemicals in their few remaining stores globally, he added. Mr Schade called on retail chains like Ace Hardware, True Value and Menards to also ban the solvents.

Lack of federal action

A proposal to ban or restrict methylene chloride and NMP paint strippers under TSCA has stalled under the current administration. The EPA announced in May last year, after a meeting with campaigners, that it would finalise a rule addressing methylene chloride “shortly”. But no action has yet been seen. Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Centre and senior adviser to SCFH, said the EPA’s failure to finalise the ban on methylene chloride was “one of the agency’s many actions that demonstrated an unprecedented disregard for public health”. He called on EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to take action. “The agency has bent over backwards to serve the interests of polluters and toxic chemical manufacturers,” Mr Belliveau said. In a blog post, NGO Environmental Defense Fund applauded Walmart’s chemical leadership. Boma Brown-West, a senior manager at EDF, wrote: “While EPA drags its feet, retailers across the nation are stepping up.” Further information is available at: Walmart announcement

Chemical Watch, 20 August 2018 ; http://chemicalwatch.com