EPA orders online retailers to stop sales of certain pesticides

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June 18, 2020

LOGO: EPA

LOGO: EPA

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

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About the Author

Diane Sofranec

Diane Sofranec is the senior editor for PMP magazine. She can be reached at dsofranec@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3793.

Leave A Comment

  1. John W. Cody says:

    Nice article, Diane! I have always wondered how (most all stores that handle pesticides), are able to sell pesticides that are clearly marked “For Professional Use Only” to anyone that wants to buy them? This would include the average homeowner that knows little to nothing about what they are buying. What constitutes a professional? Is that statement just a “CYA” for the manufacturer or chain store selling the pesticides?
    By the way, thanks for explaining the many acronyms you used in you used in your article as acronyms can be annoying sometimes to a person (like me) unfamiliar with some of them!
    Thanks for your article, as I am one who never posts comments, but felt I would respond to this article. John W. Cody (Pres./owner)

    1. Diane Sofranec says:

      Thank you, Mr. Cody. I feel the same way about acronyms; happy to help.
      As for the sale of pesticides labeled “for professional use only,” some state regulators believe the phrase may be included on a label as part of a marketing strategy because no obligation exists to enforce the professional use of these products.
      To be considered a professional in the pest control industry, you must be a certified applicator. For standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, please visit https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/revised-certification-standards-pesticide-applicators.
      If a product is labeled “intended for use by professional applicators” however, that phrase indicates the product is a restricted-use pesticide (RUP) and should not be made available to consumers.
      If you believe RUPs are being sold to consumers, please contact your state lead agency, which works with the U.S. Environmental Protection agency to enforce federal pesticide regulations and handle complaints. For more information, please visit http://npic.orst.edu/reg/state_agencies.html.