Live 5 Investigates: Local family demands EPA ban paint stripper chemical

Drew Wynne died in October 2017 while he was using Goof Off paint stripper on the floors on his North Charleston coffee shop.
Drew Wynne died in October 2017 while he was using Goof Off paint stripper on the floors on his North Charleston coffee shop.

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A local family is asking the EPA to ban a chemical commonly used in consumer paint stripper products.

Drew Wynne died in October 2017 while he was using Goof Off paint stripper on the floors on his North Charleston coffee shop.

The coroner's report, provided by the family, says Drew died of exposure to toxic Methylene chloride fumes.

A police report describing the incident said EMS and police officers "needed to be removed from the scene due to the overwhelming chemical odor."

They notified the fire department and HAZMAT team.

"It was determined that the victim was using 'Goof Off' paint stripper. Two cans were located inside of the unit. The ingredient of Methylene chloride is contained in the paint stripper bottle and is very toxic according to the warning label," said the officer's report.

"Drew was kind of larger than life," remembers his brother, Clayton Wynne. "He was energetic, personable definitely one of the funniest people I ever met."

Drew was the baby of the family.

He and his friend James Luby opened Riptide Coffee in North Charleston, and the Wynne family says it was a quick success.

They said it wasn't uncommon for Drew to be working late at the shop or fixing things up.

"It's fortunate and unfortunate that we got to see the best of Drew at the end of his life," Clayton said.

"You can go down a dark hole in grief or you can do something," said Drew's mom Cindy Wynne.

She says their family has agreed they want to take action and spread awareness about the potential dangers of this chemical.

Drew's other brother Brian said, "Methylene chloride was a foreign language. We didn't know what it was."

But it didn't take long for them to find a lot of information and research about Methylene chloride, also known as DCM.

The EPA says it's a "volatile chemical… used in paint and coating removal."

You can find it in products like paint stripper at just about any hardware store.

"Quite frankly, it's just too dangerous to be sold the way it's sold and that needs to change," Brian said.

Drew's family believes it's past time for action.

"Getting the ban, it's not going make the hurt go away, but it might soften it," Cindy said.

"This is a highly toxic chemical," said Dr. Sarah Vogel, vice president of Health with the nonprofit Environment Defense Fund.

She says more than fifty people have died from exposure to DCM.

"The evidence is strong. It presents a clear undeniable threat. There's safer alternatives and we've seen the market shift to those in Europe. California is starting to take action. This is just unacceptable to have these kind of tragedies," said Vogel.

On its website, EDF said, "An overhaul in 2016 of the main U.S. chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, required EPA to choose the first 10 chemicals for risk evaluation. DCM, one of the first 10 chemicals, is commonly used in paint and coating removal products but is also found in automotive products, adhesives, degreasers, and more. DCM is acutely lethal, and EPA has classified it as a likely carcinogen. In January 2017, EPA proposed a rule to ban most uses of DCM in paint and coating removal products. Unfortunately, the agency recently indefinitely delayed finalization of this proposed ban."

"The time for study is gone and the time for action is now," said U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

He agrees with getting Methylene chloride out of household products.

"I actually joined in a letter with Senator Scott and Senator Graham just last week to the EPA saying they need to move forward with their determination on this front," he said.

Sanford himself had a bad experience years ago.

He's not sure exactly what chemicals were in the paint stripper product he was using.

"Long story short, I got quite sick. Like, real, real sick," Sanford said.

Drew's family hopes their loss and their fight to ban the chemical will save others from getting sick or dying.

We reached out to the EPA and to the company that makes Goof Off, W.M. Barr Company. We haven't heard back from either entity yet.

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