The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action against online retailers Amazon and eBay in an effort to stop the sale of pesticides that are not registered, misbranded, or restricted-use, and pesticide devices with misleading or false claims. Also included in the order are products that make false or misleading claims about their effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
The EPA issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) on June 10, prohibiting the sale, use or removal of pesticides that violate the Federal insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). A SSURO is one of several steps the EPA may take to enforce FIFRA violations; others include seizures, injunctions, civil penalties and recalls. The SSUROs for Amazon and eBay list the products in violation of FIFRA.
The Amazon SSURO includes pesticides that have not been registered with the EPA. All pesticides sold in the United States must be registered with the EPA to ensure they are safe and effective.
The eBay SSURO includes unregistered and restricted-use pesticides. It is unlawful to sell these types of products to the general public because without additional restrictions, they may potentially harm human health and the environment.
“We remain vigilant against the claims of producers that falsely assert their efficacy and safety. Of particular concern are products that falsely claim to be effective against COVID-19,” said Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator. “It is our duty to continue transparent communication with the public on unregistered products that may cause injury to consumers, and immediately remove them from commerce.”
Wheeler discussed the sale of these products with officials at Amazon, eBay, and other online retailers in April. Nonetheless, the companies continued to sell products that are unregistered, registered but designed for use only by trained applicators, or marketed using unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous claims.
The EPA offered examples of label language found on some of the misbranded and unregistered pesticide and pesticide devices, including “kills COVID-19,” “complete sterilization including the current pandemic virus,” “coronavirus disinfectant,” “epidemic prevention,” and “efficient disinfection to prevent the spread of disease.”
In 2018, Amazon settled with the EPA, which accused the online retailer of violating FIFRA nearly 4,000 times over five years by selling and distributing pesticide products not licensed for sale in the United States.
The pest management industry also is fighting the sale and use of these pesticides. The Internet Sales of Illegal, Counterfeit and Adulterated Pesticides (IICAP) task force consisting of representatives from Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials (ASPCRO), the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), Responsible Industry for Sound Environment (RISE), and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) was convened to encourage cooperation among states to combat illegal online sales.
Dr. Jim Fredericks, the NPMA’s VP of technical and regulatory affairs, and PMP Callback Cures columnist, recommends pest management professionals who are unsure about a pesticide or rodenticide purchased online stop using the product and immediately report it to the product registrant.
Read more COVID-19 coverage here: MyPMP.net/COVID-19