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EPA Warns Against Use of Mothballs that Look Like Candy

Release Date: 11/23/2010
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is warning the public about a potential threat from an illegal pesticide product uncovered during an inspection of a shipment at a warehouse in Kearny, NJ. EPA discovered that a Brooklyn-based company had attempted to import mothballs from China that could be mistaken for candy and are not registered with EPA, as required by federal law. These mothballs are suspected of containing an active ingredient called para-dichlorobenzene, a toxic chemical. About 4800 brightly-decorated bags of the product, called Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets, were discovered. EPA is looking into whether the product has reached stores, and is asking the public to look out for the mothballs while the Agency continues its investigation. Members of the public should not purchase the Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets. If a consumer has bought them, he or she should contact EPA at 732-321-4461 for assistance in properly disposing of them.

“EPA wants to make sure that no one gets sick from these illegal imported toxic pesticides,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Importing pesticide products that are not registered with EPA is a serious violation. The registration process ensures that we know what pesticides are in the products, and that they have labels with directions for proper use. Mothballs sold in colorful packaging that resemble candy pose a particular risk to children”.

Inhaling para-dichlorobenzene can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress and other illnesses. Swallowing it can damage the nervous system and, in extreme cases, can cause coma or death. In this case, the product’s similarity to candy makes accidental poisonings a real threat.

On November 2, EPA received a routine notice from an importer seeking permission to bring a disinfection product containing a pesticide into the U.S. EPA reviewed the paperwork and discovered that there was no EPA registration number listed for the product, Dettol Disinfectant Laundry Sanitizer. The Agency contacted the importer and requested that the shipment be made available for inspection.

On November 5, the importer brought the shipment to a warehouse in Kearny, NJ for EPA inspection. During this inspection, the Agency not only confirmed that the Dettol Disinfectant Laundry Sanitizer was not registered and did not have an EPA-approved label, but also discovered a large quantity of the Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets. The illegal products are being held in Kearny, and EPA has directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seize and destroy them. EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offices around the country were alerted about the attempted importation of the Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets because of concerns about their candy-like appearance. On November 9, EPA conducted a subsequent inspection of the importer’s Brooklyn warehouse and has identified several similar products that may be illegal and are being held while the Agency’s investigation continues.

“The removal of this significant threat to the public’s safety and health demonstrates CBP’s vigilance in protecting the United States,” said Mr. Robert E. Perez, U. S. Customs and Border Protection, Director New York Field Office. “Fortunately CBP has forged great working relationships with other agencies, this latest example of interoperability with the EPA bears that relationship out.”

All products sold in the U.S. that contain pesticides must be registered with EPA. Before a product is registered, EPA examines the ingredients and the way in which it will be used. The Agency also looks at storage and disposal practices. EPA assesses a wide variety of potential human health and environmental effects associated with use of the product. The producer of the pesticide must provide data from tests done according to EPA guidelines, to ensure that the product does not make people sick.

Illegal pesticide products are toxic and may contain unknown ingredients. Consumers may unknowingly purchase illegal products, which have not been thoroughly tested and do not have proper labels. “Do not ever buy a pesticide that does not have an EPA registration number on the container,” warned EPA Regional Administrator Enck.

As America’s frontline border security agency, U. S. Customs and Border Protection’s priority mission is to protect the American public against terrorists and the instruments of terror while at the same time enforcing the laws of the United States and fostering the Nation’s economic security through lawful travel and trade.

For more information about illegal pesticides, their health effects, and how to dispose of them, go to the EPA’s illegal pesticide website http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/illegalproducts/index.htm

For images of the particular products subject to today’s announcement, visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/pesticides. To watch a video of the press conference, go to http://www.epa.gov/region02/mediacenter/video.html.

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