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Three moms on a mission to ban the chemical that killed their sons

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I hope you honor the mothers in your life.

We have spent the past few days with three courageous moms, who have taken the unimaginable grief of losing their sons and turned it into tenacious advocacy. They’re working to get the deadly chemical their sons were all exposed to off store shelves and out of workplaces.

In April 2017, Wendy Hartley’s son Kevin died while refinishing a bathtub for his uncle’s home renovation business. He was using a coating remover that contained methylene chloride.

In October 2017, Cindy Wynne’s son Drew was found by his business partner after he succumbed to the deadly effects of methylene chloride in the product he had purchased at Lowe’s to strip the floors in his new business.

In February 2018, Lauren Atkins returned home to find her son Joshua, who had died while stripping the fork of his BMX racing bike with a product containing methylene chloride.

All three moms traveled to Washington DC this week to deliver a strong and clear message to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt – he should finish the job of getting these dangerous chemicals out of workplaces and off store shelves so that no other mother experiences the tragedy that these women are living through.

In addition to meeting with the Administrator, Cindy, Lauren and Wendy, along with Kevin’s grandmother Katherine and Drew’s brother Brian met with Senate and House offices, including meetings with South Carolina’s Senator Tim Scott and Rep. Mark Sanford, New York Representatives Nita Lowey and Paul Tonko, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, asking them to push the EPA to finish the job of banning this deadly chemical in paint strippers immediately.

Yesterday, we heard a reply from the EPA that is encouraging, but as my own mother likes to say – “The proof is in the pudding.”

EPA put out a press release yesterday announcing that:

  • EPA intends to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking;
  • EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments; and
  • EPA is working to send the finalized rulemaking to OMB shortly.

Personally, I like to say that the devil is in the details, so along with Cindy, Lauren and Wendy, we’ll be monitoring EPA’s action on the proposed rule closely, looking for a true ban on the use of methylene chloride on an aggressive timeline. (When is “shortly,” exactly?)

I know that Cindy, Lauren and Wendy will keep calling for a ban, and so will we. We’ll keep following up with EPA staff until the final rule is sent to the Office of Management and Budget, and then we’ll meet with the OMB staff. We’ll keep on encouraging Senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle to contact the EPA in support of the 2017 proposed ban on methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP is another chemical used in paint strippers that poses a host of health threats. Replacing it for methylene chloride just replaces one set of health risks with another.).

We hope EPA will act and if they don’t, we’ll continue calling on retailers like Lowe’s and The Home Depot to ban these dangerous chemicals. This week we held a national “week of action” calling on Lowe’s and EPA to act.

Over the past month, over 120,000 people nationwide have signed petitions urging Lowe’s to ban methylene chloride and NMP.

Join them: sign our petition to Lowe’s.