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The Home Depot Will Be Third Major U.S. Retailer to Ban Deadly Paint Strippers

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The Home Depot Will Be Third Major U.S. Retailer to Ban Deadly Paint Strippers
Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

The world's largest home improvement retailer, The Home Depot, announced Tuesday that it will phase out the use of the toxic chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in its paint removal products by the end of this year.

The company, which operates more than 2,200 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is the third major retailer this month to commit to pulling the products from store shelves. Methylene chloride and NMP have been found to pose unacceptable health risks to the public, including cancer, harm to the nervous system and to childhood development, and death.


"The Home Depot's action is the latest nail in the coffin for methylene chloride and NMP paint strippers," said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. "We applaud The Home Depot for taking this important step that will go a long way in safeguarding its customers from these unnecessary toxic chemicals and promote safer alternatives. The time for hazardous paint strippers is over, and we urge the remaining retailers stocking these products to put their customers first and remove them from store shelves swiftly. Walmart, Menards, and Ace Hardware should phase out the sale of all paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of 2018."

"We're glad that the private sector is finally starting to take action on these dangerous chemicals, but the EPA must stop dragging their feet and ban these toxic hazards once and for all so that no other family has to suffer," said Sujatha Bergen, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a ban on paint removers that contain methylene chloride and NMP, citing the products' unreasonable risks to human health. Deferring to the wishes of the chemical industry, the EPA shelved its proposed ban soon after Scott Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator and the agency has taken no action in 18 months. Last month, two days after Pruitt met with families who have recently lost loved ones due to methylene chloride exposure, the EPA announced that it would finalize a methylene chloride rule. However, the agency has revealed few details on its planned regulatory action, offered no timeline, and has taken no action on NMP.

Following the EPA's proposed ban, last year Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families sent The Home Depot and Lowe's letters warning the companies about the dangers of these chemicals, and requested they stop selling paint strippers containing toxic chemicals. Over the past year, more than 65,000 people signed petitions to The Home Depot and more than 200,000 to Lowe's on this topic. NRDC recently sent letters to both The Home Depot and Lowe's and launched a video on Instagram that generated more than three million views.

In early May, advocates held a national "week of action" outside of Lowe's stores in more than a dozen states. As a result, last month Lowe's became the first major U.S. retailer to commit to banning methylene chloride and NMP globally. On Friday, Sherwin-Williams, the nation's largest specialty retailer of paint and paint supplies, announced it was also phasing out the sale of methylene chloride paint strippers by the end of 2018 and that it will continue to keep NMP paint strippers off its shelves.

"First Lowe's, then Sherwin-Williams and now The Home Depot, all these retailers have agreed there are safer alternatives to methylene chloride and are pulling it from their shelves to protect their customers," said Brian Wynne, brother of Drew Wynne who died from methylene chloride exposure from a paint stripper purchased at Lowe's in 2017. "Sadly their actions are too late for my brother and the many others who have been harmed or killed by these toxic products. The EPA must act on their intention to finalize the ban on methylene chloride now!"

Methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 deaths nationwide since 1980 and is linked to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity and reproductive toxicity. Since the EPA proposed a ban, at least four people in the U.S. have died from working with methylene chloride-based paint strippers. In turn, NMP, which can be substituted for methylene chloride in paint removers, impacts fetal development and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. According to the EPA, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and two million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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