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EPA Warns New York City Residents about Dangers of Illegal Pesticides; Agency Sweep of Businesses in Several City Neighborhoods Reveals Illegal Products Are Easy to Find

Release Date: 09/19/2011
Contact Information: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) An investigation conducted last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that dangerous and illegal pesticides are widely available in New York City. Federal and state experts conducted 47 inspections and found 16 different types of illegal pesticides. The pesticides were not registered by EPA and consumers have no way of knowing how dangerous they are, because they were not subject to testing requirements or manufacturing controls that are required in the registration process. In all, nearly 350 illegal products were collected from the businesses in just three days. Store owners and vendors found with the illegal pesticides were given a warning and told why selling these products are dangerous and illegal. Separate but related criminal investigations conducted by EPA with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S Attorney’s Office, U.S. Customs, the U.S. Postal Service and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office produced similar results and several charges were made against individuals last week, resulting in 12 arrests.

"Illegal pesticides can make people sick, especially kids who might mistake them for candy,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "Illegal pesticides can and do poison people. When businesses sell these products, they put their customers at risk. I encourage all New York City retailers to check their shelves and make sure all their pesticides have the required EPA labels. Consumers should be careful to look for the EPA registration number printed on product labels, and to follow the directions for use, storage and disposal. If a pesticide product does not have an EPA registration number, it should not be purchased.”

“The sale of illegal pesticides poses a direct threat to the health and safety of our community. In the cases charged by our Office, that threat was particularly imminent in the Chinatown neighborhood,” said District Attorney Vance. “Some of these illegal products look and smell like cookie crumbs, making them dangerously tempting to children. Some of the other products are so toxic that one small vial can kill an adult male. It is my hope that our collective criminal and civil law enforcement actions will prevent future injury or death.”

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has zero tolerance for the sale of illegal pesticides and we will continue law enforcement efforts such as these to ensure that the health of our communities is protected,” stated Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Director Venetia Lannon. “We commend the EPA for their leadership, our partners at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and our own Division of Law Enforcement for a successful sting operation."

The inspections, which took place the week of September 12, targeted stores in neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Among the items confiscated were various rodenticides, mosquito repellants and mothballs. These items will be safely destroyed.

Under federal pesticides law, all products sold in the United States that contain pesticides must be registered with EPA. Before a pesticide product is registered, the producer of the product must provide data from tests done according to EPA guidelines, to ensure that the product does not make people sick. EPA then examines the ingredients and the way in which the product will be used, and assesses a wide variety of potential human health and environmental effects associated with use of the product. Distributors and retailers are responsible for ensuring that all pesticides distributed and sold fully comply with the law.

Pesticides have been linked to various forms of illnesses in humans, ranging from skin and eye irritation to cancer. Some pesticides may also affect the hormone or endocrine systems. In many situations, there may be non-chemical methods to control pests. EPA recommends considering and using these methods as part of an overall pest management strategy.

EPA has created an illegal pesticides fact sheet in multiple languages, which it will be distributing to businesses and community organizations in the targeted neighborhoods.

In a separate series of actions earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice charged two New York City-based individuals, who together had distributed and sold thousands of packages of illegal pesticides in recent months, with misdemeanor violations of federal pesticide laws. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office also charged 10 retail sellers with selling dangerous and illegal pesticides and with reckless endangerment. Agents seized many more illegal pesticides from the individuals during their respective arrests.

For more information on pesticide regulation and enforcement, please visit the EPA’s Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/region2/pesticides.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/eparegion2 and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

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