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EPA Charges That "Mildew-Proof" Paint Is Unregistered Pesticide; Seeks $82,500 Penalty from Somerset, N.J. Manufacturer for Selling It

Release Date: 11/10/1999
Contact Information:

(#99180) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has charged the Somerset, New Jersey-based paint manufacturer William Zinsser & Company, Inc. with 15 counts of selling "mildew- proof" paint that is not registered with EPA as a pesticide a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the law that regulates pesticides. EPA is seeking an $82,500 penalty from the company for the multiple violations.

A May 1999 EPA inspection of the Zinsser facility at 173 Belmont Drive in Somerset and information supplied by the company revealed that it sold "Perma-White Mildew-Proof Bathroom Paint" in both semi-gloss and satin finishes to buyers on 15 occasions in the month of April 1999. EPA asserts that, in selling paints advertised as mildew-proof and able to prevent mildew growth on other surfaces, the company violated a major FIFRA regulation that prohibits the sale of any pesticide product not tested and registered by EPA. Mildew is a fungus, and products claiming to eliminate or prevent it are subject to FIFRA pesticide requirements. Labels on the Perma-White paint cans and promotional literature made pesticidal claims like: "Guaranteed mildew-proof"; "After five years, no sign of mildew on this Perma-White ceiling of a bathroom"; and "Even damp, masonry basement walls can be painted with Perma-White to prevent mildew growth so common in these areas."

"EPA's pesticide regulations were designed in part to protect the consumer from products that may not work," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "Manufacturers like Zinsser and their customers should be aware that unless a product is reviewed and registered as a pesticide by EPA, it is not formally recognized as effective and non-hazardous to the environment. People considering buying products claiming to combat mildew, other fungi, bacteria, microbes or other pests on surfaces should look for an EPA registration number on the label. And companies manufacturing these products should be aware that EPA is serious about stemming the recent wave of products making unsubstantiated pesticide claims."

EPA's dealings with Zinsser began when the agency issued a Notice of Warning to the company indicating that due to the language it used on advertisements and labels for Perma-White Mildew-Proof paint, its sale violated FIFRA. EPA instructed the company to revise its labels and advertising to remove all pesticidal claims, or to register the paint as a pesticide with the agency. Zinsser did neither. EPA's May 1999 inspection of the Somerset facility and a subsequent visit to a large paint retailer revealed that the company continued to make pesticidal claims about the product without an EPA registration number.

William Zinsser & Company, Inc. has 200 employees and annual sales of approximately $36 million. It is wholly owned by specialty coatings manufacturer RPM, Inc., which has annual sales of approximately $1.7 billion.

For more information contact:

Nina Habib Spencer, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3670 FAX: 212-637-4445 E-Mail: habib.nina@epamail.epa.gov