The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced an agreement with Amazon Services LLC to protect the public from the hazards posed by unregistered and misbranded pesticide products. The agreement settles allegations that Amazon committed nearly 4,000 violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – dating back to 2013 – for selling and distributing imported pesticide products that were not licensed for sale in the United States.
“This agreement will dramatically reduce the online sale of illegal pesticides, which pose serious threats to public health in communities across America,” says EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick. “Amazon is committed to closely monitoring and removing illegal pesticides from its website, and EPA will continue to work hard to ensure these harmful products never reach the marketplace.”
Under the terms of the Feb. 15 agreement, Amazon will develop an online training course on pesticide regulations and policies that the EPA says will significantly reduce the number of illegal pesticides available through the online marketplace. The training will be available to the public and online marketers in English, Spanish and Chinese. Successful completion of the training will be mandatory for all entities planning to sell pesticides on Amazon.com.
Amazon will also pay an administrative penalty of $1,215,700 as part of the consent agreement and final order entered into by Amazon and EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle, Wash.
In late 2014, EPA began investigating online pesticide product distributions and sales through several internet retail sites, including Amazon and third-party sellers that used Amazon’s online marketing platform. In March 2015, EPA inspected an Amazon facility in Lexington, Ky., and inspectors in EPA’s Region 10 office successfully ordered illegal pesticides from Amazon.com. In August 2015, EPA issued a FIFRA Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order against Amazon to prohibit the sale of the illegal pesticide products that can easily be mistaken for blackboard or sidewalk chalk, especially by children.
EPA issued another Stop Sale Order against Amazon in January 2016 after discovering that certain unregistered or misbranded insecticide bait products were being offered for sale on Amazon.com. After receiving the stop sale orders, Amazon immediately removed the products from the marketplace, prohibited foreign sellers from selling pesticides, and cooperated with EPA during its subsequent investigation. The orders, as well as EPA’s subsequent engagement with the company, prompted Amazon to more aggressively monitor its website for illegal pesticides. As a result, Amazon has created a robust compliance program comprised of a sophisticated computer-based screening system backed-up by numerous, trained staff.
In October 2016, Amazon notified all customers who purchased the illegal pesticides between 2013 and 2016 to communicate safety concerns with these products and urge disposal. Amazon also refunded those customers the cost of the products, approximately $130,000.
Non-English speaking members of the public are at increased risk from these pesticides that are illegal in the U.S. but have long been used throughout Asia. These populations’ familiarity with these products make it more likely they will order them from online sources such as Amazon. By removing such products from Amazon’s online platform and by educating third party sellers on the hazards of these unregistered and misbranded pesticide products, this agreement will decrease the availability of these unsafe products and protect these vulnerable groups.
The EPA has posted a web page for more information on this settlement, including a copy of the consent agreement and final order. PMP will be covering this story in more depth, and particularly what it means to the professional pest management industry, in its March issue.