Barista Vending

Drew Wynne (left) demonstrates how Barista Vending brews its coffee. He and his co-founder, Jim Luby, spent months tweaking their cold-brew process. Wynne unexpectedly died last year after inhaling fumes from a common paint stripper. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

A Charleston man who quit his job in 2016 to pursue a career manufacturing cold-brew coffee died in October after inhaling fumes from a "commonly purchased paint stripper," an advocacy group reports.  

Drew Wynne, 31, was the co-founder of Riptide Coffee in North Charleston. He was working at the business stripping the floor of a commercial refrigerator on Oct. 13 but was found dead the next day.  

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the cause of death listed on the coroner's report was "methylene chloride exposure." CBS News aired a report about Wynne's death Thursday. 

The Environmental Defense Fund claims in a press release "this lethal chemical has been linked to more than 50 deaths across the country since 1980." News reports indicate a 21-year-old man in Tennessee died last year from methylene chloride exposure.

According to a report published this month by The Center for Public Integrity, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced in January 2017 it intended to "largely ban paint strippers containing the chemical methylene chloride so they would no longer sit on store shelves, widely available for anyone to buy."

The report explains that inhaling the "product in enclosed areas, where fumes build up, puts people at risk of asphyxiation because methylene chloride is an anesthetic at high doses — knocking victims out and stopping them from breathing. Because it turns into carbon monoxide in the body, it can also trigger heart attacks in smokers and people with certain health conditions." 

The EPA has since rolled back its timeline for implementing the methylene chloride ban to an unspecified date. 

The Environmental Defense Fund and the Wynne family are asking Congress and the EPA to ban these products from store shelves. 

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"My brother didn't need to die," Brian Wynne told CBS. 

Wynne told The Post and Courier on Thursday that he recently met with staff from U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham's and Tim Scott's offices about the proposed ban. 

"There’s no stone that we’ll leave unturned," he said. 

The family is being represented by the Motley Rice law firm in Charleston but instead of immediately filing a lawsuit, Cindy Wynne, Drew's mother, said her first priority is putting this ban in place. The family launched an online petition Thursday asking Lowe's to stop selling the dangerous product. 

"We’re focusing on legislation because we feel like that’s going to be the most benefit to the most consumers," Cindy Wynne said.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598. 

Lauren Sausser is the Features Editor at The Post and Courier. She also covers health care issues in South Carolina.