Lowe's bans paint strippers after protest campaign

Nathan Bomey
An employee works in the paint department at a Lowe's store in Louisville, Kentucky.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lowe's is banning paint strippers with two harmful chemicals after activists waged a campaign against the home improvement retailer over its sale of the products.

Paint removal products with methylene chloride and NMP will be off Lowe's shelves by the end of the year.

"We care deeply about the health and safety of our customers, and great progress is being made in the development of safer and more effective alternatives," said Mike McDermott, Lowe's chief customer officer, in a statement. "As a home improvement leader, we recognize the need for viable paint removal products and remain committed to working closely with suppliers to further innovate in this category."

An activist group called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which had campaigned for such a move, hailed the decision and described Lowe's as the first major U.S. retailer to do so.

The group, which organized protests outside Lowe's stores, said more than 200,000 consumers had signed petitions "demanding action." The organization called for competitors, including Home Depot, Walmart and Menards, to follow suit.

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"When facing federal inaction on vital issues facing the American public — some of which are matters of life or death — retailers have a responsibility and an opportunity to do right by their customers," said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, in a statement. "Lowe's has set the pace for the rest of the retail sector with its announcement today. The company's actions will also help drive the development of safer green chemistry solutions."

Methylene chloride has been tied to cancer, reproductive issues and other conditions, according to Safer Chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency in 2017 proposed a ban that has yet to become law.

NMP, or N-methylpyrrolidone, is cited as a cause of fetal development problems, including miscarriages, Safer Chemicals said.