Illegal Insecticide Chalk Can Harm Children
By Chris Williams on August 7, 2013.
Can you tell me anything about Chinese chalk? My niece, who has two small children, swears by that stuff to kill stink bugs and other insects in her home. She has chalk lines on the floors and all over the place. I’ve never heard anything about a chalk that kills insects. Does it work?
The first thing you should know is that, as far as the Environmental Protection Agency is concerned, this insecticide chalk is illegal and dangerous, especially for children. Illegal insecticide chalks go by names such as “Miraculous Chalk,” “Chinese Chalk,” or “Pretty Baby Chalk.” They look like normal blackboard chalk and are sold as a pest control method for household insects like ants and cockroaches, and now stink bugs. The purchaser draws a chalk line on floors, countertops and other surfaces that supposedly kills insects when they come in contact with it.
No doubt some of the chalks do kill insects because they contain pesticides, often very toxic pesticides, that have not been approved for that use. These chalks have never been reviewed or registered by EPA.
How to Identify Illegal Insecticide Chalk
Insecticide chalk is mostly imported illegally from China and will often have a label written in both English and Chinese. The chalks are common in neighborhood stores, especially in ethnic communities, where the colorful boxes sell for as little as $1 each. Look closely at the label. The manufacturer often makes a claim on the packaging that the chalk is “harmless” to human beings and animals and that it is “safe to use.” The label usually does not have proper use directions or warnings as required by law.
There are a few insecticide chalks that are registered by EPA. Legal insecticide chalks that have been registered by EPA will have an EPA Registration number on the label and appropriate warnings and directions in English. The legal chalks are packaged in plastic dispensers to prevent contact with skin and they have a bitter taste to prevent accidental swallowing.
Why are Illegal Chalks a Problem?
Federal officials are concerned about the sale and use of the chalk not only because its claims are unproven, but also because the chalk is so attractive to children. The boxes are small with bright colors. Because insecticide chalk looks like regular blackboard chalk, children will pick it up, write with it (it writes like regular chalk), and maybe even put it in their mouths. The chalks all contain different unregistered insecticides so there is no way to know the exact hazards. Children pick up the pesticide dust on their hands, breathe it in, or swallow it. Exposure to the chemicals found in some illegal insecticide chalks can cause vomiting, stomach pains, convulsions, tremors, and loss of consciousness. Children have been hospitalized after eating the chalk. Why take a chance with injuring a child when there are plenty of effective pesticide products that have been tested, and registered, and have a measure of safety?
If you think you, or someone you know, has purchased illegal insecticide chalk, return it to the place where you purchased it, or contact your local authorities to arrange for its disposal. To avoid buying illegal or counterfeit insecticides, buy from reputable sellers, make sure there are instructions in English, look for an EPA Registration number on the label, and make sure the label identifies the active ingredient in the product.