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Congress to Scott Pruitt: What do you have to say to these families?

Representative Pallone and Representative Lowey stand up for victims of deadly paint strippers

Brian and Johanna Wynne watch hearing
Johanna and Brian Wynne (right) watch the Energy & Commerce Environment Subcommittee hearing

Last week Drew Wynne’s brother Brian and sister-in-law Johanna traveled to Washington, DC to attend a Congressional hearing. Drew, a 31-year-old small business owner, is one of at least four people who have been killed by paint strippers containing methylene chloride since January 2017. That’s when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed banning methylene chloride and another toxic chemical called N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP).

In questioning EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Representative Frank Pallone spoke passionately about Drew and another man who died recently from methylene chloride exposure, Joshua Atkins.

Mr. Pallone had only a few minutes to ask questions of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt but it was very powerful. He put it well: “Mr. Pruitt, your deregulatory agenda costs lives. Real people with names, with mothers, with brothers. You have the power to finalize the ban on methylene chloride now and prevent more deaths…Do you have anything to say to these families?” Watch the video (cued to Mr. Pallone’s question) here:

Representative Pallone discussed not only Drew’s story but also the story of Joshua Atkins whose mother wrote a letter to the committee that was entered into the record. Joshua was a caring, passionate man who was 31 just like Drew. He had many interests in life, including photography, playing music and participating in a number of sports. His lifelong passion was BMX biking but he also loved snowboarding, rock climbing and yoga. Even though he was the picture of health, in February, a paint stripper containing methylene chloride killed him while he was refinishing his BMX bike. Joshua shouldn’t have been killed by a toxic paint stripper. No one else should.

Mr. Pruitt was also questioned about the delay in banning the chemical by New York Representative Nita Lowey in a meeting of the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. She asked him: “When EPA conducts a cost-benefit analysis of rule promulgation what value does it place on human life? And which is more important to you—the happiness of the industry you regulate or the safety and well being of Americans? And what will it take for you to finalize this rule to save lives?” Watch the video (cued to Ms. Lowey’s question) here:

Administrator Pruitt’s response that the EPA hasn’t had enough time to review all the comments about the proposed ban that were submitted is complete nonsense. The comment period ended almost a year ago—May 19, 2017. The longer the agency waits, the more lives will be lost.

We’re going to keep pushing the EPA to ban methylene chloride and NMP in paint strippers but there’s absolutely no reason for retailers like Lowe’s and The Home Depot to wait for government action. They have the power to take these products off their shelves and save lives!