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Beware of Illegal Pesticides!

By Chris Williams on October 12, 2011.

Don’t assume that every pesticide for sale is a legal product. There are products circulating on the street or sold mostly in neighborhood Asian and Hispanic stores that are imported from other countries. Many of these imported products are illegal. In other words, they do not have labels approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But to add to the confusion, some of these illegal products are also available to the public in legal, EPA-registered versions.

Illegal products are often more toxic than EPA-registered products and many contain unknown ingredients that have not been tested. Further, the application and safety information on their labels (if they even have labels) has not been reviewed by EPA. Unfortunately, many of these illegal products are particularly attractive to children since they look like candy or cookies.

spray-canEPA has identified many illegal products, including illegal flea and tick repellents. Although these products are registered in other countries, their labels omit important warnings that are required in the U.S. and give doses in metric units. Others are illegal antibacterial cleaners (if they claim to protect against bacteria, they must be EPA-registered. Check your antibacterial soaps and cleaners, you’ll see an EPA registration number.) There are also illegal mosquito coils, ant killers, and mothballs. Illegal Chinese mothballs are pastel-colored and come in bags that resemble candy.

Insecticide Chalk –Variations of this product have been around for years. It is sometimes called “Chinese Chalk” or “Miraculous Chalk,” and is sold for little over a dollar per box. It usually has a label in both English and Chinese and may state untrue claims that the chalk is “harmless to human beings and animals, “ and “safe to use.” [Note, however, that at least one chalk product, Ze Lin Chen Chalk, is a legal EPA-registered product.] Insecticide chalks are used to draw a line around a room or a bed that will supposedly kill insects that touch it.

Tempo – Tempo®is an EPA-registered product that is sold for use only by licensed applicators, but it is being sold illegally in small black packets on the street. When pest control operators use Tempo, they mix the powder with water to reach the recommended safe concentration. But when it is purchased on the street, people sprinkle the powder, full strength, around their homes to kill cockroaches and other pests. This is an illegal and dangerous use of a pesticide at hundreds of times the recommended dosage.

Tres Pasitos –This illegal product was brought into the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and Mexico as a rat and mouse poison. The name means “three little steps” because supposedly that is all a mouse can take after eating it. The active ingredient (toxicant) is aldicarb which EPA considers to be a very toxic chemical that should never be used in a home. High doses of aldicarb can kill people and should never be used around children.

Illegal pesticides are sold mostly by word-of-mouth. People may have used them in their native country; they find them in this country and recommend them to friends. Lower prices and language barriers also encourage immigrants to buy these products from bodegas or street vendors. EPA has a campaign to protect consumers from these illegal products by increased enforcement actions against companies selling or distributing illegal household pesticides. Any product without an EPA registration number is illegal and dangerous, especially to children and pets.

To determine if the product is legal in the U.S., look for the EPA-registration number (EPA Reg. No.) and EPA Establishment Number (EPA Est. No.) on the package. Also look for a list of active ingredients (toxins) on the label. Any product registered with EPA must state the active ingredients on the label. If someone offers a pesticide that appears to be re-wrapped or has no label or instructions, don’t buy it.

Shop for pesticides in stores that you know and trust. If someone offers to sell you a pesticide on the street, assume that it’s illegal. To ensure your family’s safety, when you have a pest problem, contact a licensed pest control company with certified technicians who use only EPA-registered pesticide products.

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