SC man's family speaks out after son dies using common paint stripper

Warning label of a paint thinner. (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - It's a commonly used paint stripper found in hardware stores and it's possibly in your garage right now.

After a young Charleston man died, his family says no label could ever let people know how dangerous it is. They want one of its ingredients banned immediately.

“Drew was the youngest of our three boys, vivacious, fun, always looking up to his older brothers and wanting to be part of their team,” said his mother Cindy Wynne.

When 31-year-old Drew Wynne moved to Charleston, he joined his brother Clayton in a coffee business. It eventually grew into his own startup company — a cold brew coffee company called Riptide.

According to the coroner’s report, Drew was cleaning the floor of his warehouse last fall with a paint stripping product.

The coroner says he was overcome by toxic fumes and incapacitated.

“I got a call from Drew’s business partner and he was panicked. He was screaming over and over again, 'He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone,'” said Clayton Wynne.

According to the coroner's report, the cause of death was acute dichloromethane and methanol toxicity.

It was a result of being exposed to methylene chloride, an ingredient in the Goof Off product he was using. It is also found in other commonly used paint strippers.

Drew is not the only one who died in this manner.

According to the Environment Defense Fund, more than 50 deaths have been attributed to exposure of methylene chloride. Three deaths were reported in 2017.

Sarah Vogel is with the Environment Defense Fund. She said, “We’ve known for decades that this chemical in paint thinners can kill and we’ve been working to ban it completely from the market.”

Vogel says that when the chemical metabolizes in the body, it turns into carbon monoxide — a toxic effect that can become lethal in a few minutes. She says attempts to ban the chemical are stalled at the moment with the Environmental Protection Agency and she wants the head of the agency to move forward.

“If somebody else dies from this product, it’s completely unacceptable,” said Vogel.

Drew's mother agrees. Her team is now fighting for other families to prevent this from happening again.

“As I have said to friends, we are just not whole anymore,” she said.

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