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EPA Cites KMart for Selling Unregistered Garden Hose Pesticide Products

Release Date: 10/26/2004
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(#04163) New York -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined the Kmart Corporation for selling a variety of garden hoses that claim to inhibit mold, fungus and bacteria growth. The Agency has determined them to be unregistered pesticide products. Since the products are not registered with EPA, the Agency is not able to verify their effectiveness as pesticides. EPA is seeking a penalty of $110,000 in a complaint against the company, based on EPA inspections in April 2004 at Kmart stores in Linden and New Brunswick, New Jersey. Kmart, which is headquartered in Troy, Michigan, receives a variety of garden hose products at its warehouses in California for distribution to its retail stores across the country.

"Our goal is to stop companies from making unsubstantiated claims that their products protect public health by destroying bacteria, mold, mildew and fungus," EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny warned. "In this case, the products in question are not just a problem in our region. They are on the shelves of Kmart stores coast to coast."

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), companies must register all products containing pesticides with EPA and must ensure that claims are accurate. The labels on the Kmart hoses state that they contain Microban, which is an EPA-approved pesticide that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus in manufactured materials and finished product. The company overstates its product's effectiveness by including terms and phrases on its labels such as "bacteria inhibitor," Microban antimicrobial protection," and "used in. . . medical products over 35 years." These claims imply that Microban, which does serve to preserve the hoses themselves, will also protect the health of the consumers who use them. Since the pesticide is in the fabric of the hoses, its pesticide properties only preserve the integrity of the hoses and do not kill bacteria within the water that runs through them.

Kmart has the opportunity to plead its case before an administrative law judge or to contact EPA to negotiate an informal settlement of the matter.