Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Barbara A. Christianson

On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) against EcoShield LLC (EcoShield) for selling a clip-on badge product called the Eco AirDoctor Portable that claims to sanitize the air of pathogens.  EPA states that the product was being sold and distributed in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) because it is an unregistered pesticide making false disinfectant claims.  The SSURO against EcoShield is another in a series of enforcement actions EPA has taken against products that EPA believes are making claims in violation of FIFRA during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Some of these actions include the Amazon and eBay SSURO and the prevention of importation of the unregistered “Virus Shut Out” pesticide product.  (See our blogs here and here for more information on these two actions.)

Under FIFRA, products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered with EPA.  EPA will not register a disinfectant until it has been determined that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the label directions.  In this case, Eco AirDoctor Portable was marketed as a “personal air sanitizer” that users hang from shirts or backpacks.  The product claims to release chlorine dioxide gas to sanitize the air of pathogens.  EcoShield also claimed on its website and social media that the product is a “safe and effective germ-killing agent” and, EPA claims, implies protection against SARS-CoV-2.  EPA also expressed concerns regarding prolonged exposure to and inhalation of chlorine dioxide gas, which EPA states can adversely affect the health of users.

To find EPA-registered disinfectant products that are qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, please search EPA’s List N, which currently contains 473 products, including products that went through the expedited review process for emerging viral pathogens.

Additional information on EPA enforcement actions on unregistered products is available here.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson

On June 17, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order (SSURO) to OCCS, Inc. (OCCS) for the sale and distribution of unregistered antimicrobial disinfectants.  EPA Region 9 states in a press release that OCCS, a chemical supply company located in Stanton, California, distributed and sold two unregistered products, Sanitizer/Quat Solution Ready to Use and Quat Solution Ready to Use Cleaner, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

It is a violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A) to sell or distribute an unregistered pesticide.  Additionally, antimicrobial disinfectant products may not contain public health claims that are not properly tested and supported by efficacy data submitted to EPA.  EPA asserts that OCCS falsely labeled Sanitizer/Quat Solutions Ready to Use product as a registered disinfectant by including an EPA registration number that is assigned to another registered pesticide on its label.  EPA further states that OCCS re-labeled the product from “Sanitizer/Quat Solutions Ready to Use” to “Quat Solution Ready to Use Cleaner.”  OCCS also removed the EPA registration number from the new label, but stated that a registered pesticide (“MAQUAT® 10 E.P.A. Reg. No. 10324-63”) was the main cleaning agent of Quat Solution Ready to Use Cleaner.  The SSURO requires OCCS to stop the sale and distribution of the products, which EPA notes were available for sale on different online marketplaces.

The SSURO does not affect lawful sales and distribution of “Maquat 10” an EPA-registered pesticide that is listed on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), a list of products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson

On June 11, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a press release that it issued stop sale, use, or removal orders (SSURO) to Amazon.com Services LLC (Amazon) and eBay, Inc. (eBay) for selling certain pesticide products that EPA claims are unregistered, misbranded, or restricted-use pesticides, and pesticide devices that EPA asserts make false or misleading claims.  The SSUROs address over 30 products sold on Amazon and over 40 products sold on eBay, and include several products marketed with what EPA believes are false or misleading claims of efficacy against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. 

EPA notes that Amazon and eBay are two of the largest e-commerce marketplaces and that they oversee millions of product listings.  EPA further notes that it has held discussions with the companies, and other e-marketplaces, to stop sales of products that falsely claim to be effective against COVID-19, as discussed on our blog.  Prior SSUROs issued to Amazon are discussed on our blog.

Registration of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is required prior to selling or distributing pesticides in the United States and it is a violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A) to sell or distribute an unregistered pesticide.  The EPA-approved label for a FIFRA registered pesticide product contains directions for use, precautionary statements, and other provisions that reflect EPA’s evaluation of data to and determination of acceptable risk for the product at issue when used as directed on the label.  Pesticide products and devices are considered “misbranded” and in violation of FIFRA if, among other potential facts, they contain false or misleading claims and/or if their labels are missing certain required information (e.g., ingredients, precautionary statements, and directions for use). 

EPA included a list of the products and devices at issue in attachments to the SSUROs.  In the Amazon SSURO, EPA states that none of the listed products is registered with EPA, and that the products were misbranded because EPA believes they contain one or more false or misleading statements on their labels.  In the eBay SSURO, EPA provides three attachments listing products eBay offered for sale that EPA claims are unregistered, misbranded, or classified as restricted use in violation of FIFRA. 

The SSUROs prohibit Amazon and eBay from distributing, selling, or offering these products for sale.  EPA requires that Amazon submit a written accounting of all the violative products listed in the attachment to the SSURO, including providing the location, quantity, and container size for these products, every 30 days for the next 150 days following Amazon’s receipt of the SSURO, or until Amazon no longer has the violative products in its ownership, custody, or control.  Amazon must obtain written approval from EPA before it moves or removes any of the products from its facilities.  EPA requires eBay to notify EPA of the corrective actions eBay will take regarding the violative products in writing within ten days of receiving the SSURO. 

EPA notes in its press release the following examples of what it believes are pesticidal claims made for the products at issue that would require their registration prior to sale or distribution:

  • “Kills COVID-19”
  • “Complete sterilization including the current pandemic virus”
  • “Coronavirus disinfectant”
  • “2020 Coronavirus Protection Coronavirus Protection Clearance Sale”
  • “A Powerful, Green, Non-Toxic Solution Proven to Inactivate our current viral strain”
  • “Epidemic Prevention”
  • “Efficient disinfection to prevent the spread of disease”
  • “Help keep your family and those you care for healthy”
  • “Nontoxic causes no permanent injuries”
  • “Ingredients are biodegradable and have no harmful impact on the environment”
  • “There is no damage to the environment”
  • “You can easily purify the living environment”
  • “Safe for all people using”
  • “Gentle to Child & Pets”
  • “Chemical Free”

EPA claims as additional violations that the products it believes are pesticide devices sold by Amazon also lack required EPA establishment numbers (i.e., site-specific information for the facility where the pesticide or device was produced) that is a required element on all pesticide and device labels.

The eBay SSURO also addresses claims that eBay sold restricted-use pesticides without limiting those sales to certified applicators as required by FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(F).  EPA states that EPA representatives purchased and received restricted-use products listed in Attachment C, Table 2 of the SSURO, but were not certified applicators at the time of the purchase, and were not required to submit proof that they were certified applicators prior to or during the sale.  Restricted-use pesticides may only be distributed or sold to certified applicators or persons under their direct supervision.  Certified applicators and persons they directly supervise are the only persons authorized to use restricted-use pesticides.

EPA’s press release highlights the following products: 

  • Described as a “particularly egregious” case are products found on Amazon containing Chlorine Dioxide sold with “unprovable claims of sanitizing and disinfecting hospitals, offices, and homes.”  In addition, several versions of the product listed on the site have very little to no English-language instructions. 
  • Product listings on eBay.com include 55-gallon drums of Methylene Chloride marketed for use against SARS-CoV-2 as a disinfectant and paint stripper.  Methylene Chloride is not approved for use against SARS-CoV-2.  EPA notes also that EPA banned the retail sale of Methylene Chloride to consumers for paint removal purposes under the Toxic Substances Control Act “due to acute fatalities that resulted from exposure to the chemical.”
  • Product listed on eBay called Virus Shut Out claiming to be a spatial disinfection card that would provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 to the wearer.  Virus Shut Out was subject to previous EPA enforcement action, discussed in our earlier blog items.
  • Product listed on eBay called Xtreme-Bio stating that it was exempt from EPA regulation and made entirely with “clean, green, safe, environmentally friendly ingredients” and that made claims to deactivate SARS-CoV-2.

Commentary

EPA has been vigilant in reviewing and acting quickly to address products making claims against coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19.  The actions against Amazon and eBay are significant, as other actions have been largely targeted toward producers.  The responses to the SSUROs will be of interest and should be monitored.

Additional information on EPA’s efforts to discover and protect against fraudulent products is available on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Heather F. Collins, M.S., and Barbara A. Christianson

On June 1, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) announced that it issued a compliance advisory on products claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

EPA states that the advisory was issued because it has received tips and complaints concerning potentially false or misleading claims, including efficacy claims, associated with pesticides and devices.  EPA says it is actively reviewing these claims and is working to identify others.  EPA states that it intends to pursue enforcement for those products making false and misleading claims regarding SARS-CoV-2.  EPA has made available a webpage where tips can be reported.

The advisory reiterates EPA’s message that disinfectant products that claim to kill viruses must be registered with EPA before they can be sold and that pesticide products cannot legally make claims that they kill a particular pathogen, such as SARS-CoV-2, unless EPA has authorized the claim during the registration process.

In the advisory, EPA emphasizes that it will not register a product claiming to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 until it has determined that the product will not pose an unreasonable risk and will be effective when used according to the label directions.  EPA notes that it maintains List N, which is a list of disinfectants that meet EPA’s criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19.  While surface disinfectant products on List N have not been tested specifically against SARS-CoV-2, EPA expects them to kill the virus because they demonstrate efficacy against a harder-to-kill virus or another human coronavirus similar to the one causing COVID-19.

The advisory also discusses devices that claim to kill SARS-CoV-2.  It states that a pesticidal device is an instrument or other machine that is used to destroy, repel, trap, or mitigate any pests, including viruses (i.e., ozone generators, UV lights).  EPA notes that unlike registered pesticide products, the safety and efficacy of pesticidal devices are not routinely reviewed by EPA.  EPA states that it therefore cannot confirm whether, or under what circumstances, such products might be effective against SARS-CoV-2.  The advisory states that consumers should be aware that pesticidal devices making such claims have not been reviewed and accepted by EPA.  It further states that while pesticidal device labels must have an EPA establishment number (which identifies where a product was produced), they will not have an EPA registration number because pesticidal devices are not subject to the same registration requirements as pesticides.

According to the advisory, pesticidal devices are subject to certain regulatory requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), one of which is a prohibition of false or misleading labeling claims.  The advisory specifically states:

Making false or misleading labeling claims about the safety or efficacy of a pesticidal device may result in penalties under FIFRA. Please note that ozone generators, UV lights and other pesticide devices may not be able to make claims against coronavirus where devices have not been tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses. In addition, because EPA does not review these data as part of a registration review process, these claims are not supported by any government review.

Because EPA does not review or register pesticide devices, these products are not included on List N.

It is important for pesticide device producers to review carefully the data supporting the claims made for their devices to ensure that they comply with the regulatory requirements under FIFRA.


 

By Kelly N. Garson and Barbara A. Christianson

On April 24, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that the agencies prevented a significant number of shipments of illegal health products from entering the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

The products at issue were not registered with EPA, including Virus Shut Out products.  EPA previously announced on March 25, 2020, that EPA and CBP had prevented several shipments of Virus Shut Out from entering U.S. Pacific Ports.  The announcement noted that because the product is not registered, EPA had not evaluated its safety and efficacy against viruses.  Additionally, its label does not contain directions for its use in English as required by law, and on-line advertisements for the product contain misleading claims about its safety and effectiveness.  The Department of Justice charged a Georgia resident with federal criminal charges relating to the illegal importation, sales, and distribution of Virus Shut Out, or Toamit Virus Shutout, on April 9, 2020, discussed in our earlier blog item

Following the shipment denial on March 25th, EPA notified Amazon, and Amazon removed the product from its marketplace.  EPA has been in communication with several retailers to ensure that these products are removed from their online marketplaces and asking for monitoring for products with illegal pesticidal claims. 

In an effort to curb illegal pesticide products during the pandemic crisis, EPA has been working with CBP to identify and seize illegal products imported from Japan and Hong Kong through International Mail Facilities (IMF) in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and CBP has as a result of this effort seized a large number of products. 

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler states “EPA is increasing the number of approved disinfectants on the market while taking action to prevent dishonest actors from selling fraudulent and illegal items that do nothing to protect Americans from the coronavirus.”  This has included EPA’s expedited review of submissions for companies to add Emerging Viral Pathogen claims to registered surface disinfectants. 

EPA has released an expanded list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  List N contains nearly 400 products that have qualified to be effective against SARS-CoV-2.

Additional information on EPA’s efforts to discover and protect against fraudulent products is available on our blog.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi

On April 9, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had charged a Georgia resident, Rong Sun, a/k/a Vicky Sun with federal criminal charges relating to alleged illegal importation, sales, and mailing of an unregistered pesticide product.  EPA also has taken steps to prevent further imports, sales, and distributions of this product within the United States, announcing in its press release that it prevented several shipments of this product from entering U.S. Pacific ports.

The product at issue, Toamit Virus Shut Out, was sold through eBay and made claims to protect individuals from bacteria and viruses and to reduce transmission risk by 90 percent.  Claims regarding the product also included the following statement: “In extraordinary times, access to public places and confined spaces will be protected by one more layer and have one more layer of safety protection effect, thus reducing the risks and probability of infection and transmission.”  The product was not registered by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division is prosecuting the case.  EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and USPS are investigating this case.  This type of collaborative investigative effort among federal agencies can be expected to continue to prevent defrauding victims during this coronavirus pandemic.  In its press release announcing the arrest, DOJ stated that it “will take quick action through the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force to put a stop to criminals preying on the public with Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.”  EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine stated further: “Reliance on fraudulent products may increase the spread of COVID-19 and exacerbate the current public health emergency.”

EPA encourages consumers to review its list of products found at epa.gov/coronavirus for products registered and approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  The public also can report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Barbara A. Christianson

On April 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted an interactive telephone call with U.S. retailers and third-party marketplace platforms to discuss imposter disinfectant products and those that falsely claim to be effective against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.  EPA hosted the call due to recent complaints on the availability of products with unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous claims of protection against SARS-CoV-2 and has enlisted the help of the retail community to prevent these products from coming to market.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler described the call as “informative and productive,” and stated that “together, we will work diligently to ensure that consumers have access to EPA-approved and verified surface disinfectant products; products that we know to be effective against the novel coronavirus.”

Participants included the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the National Retail Federation, Walmart, Amazon, and eBay.  All expressed commitment to “work closely with trusted suppliers to ensure that all products that they sell meet or exceed all applicable U.S. safety standards and legal requirements” and to “work closely with EPA to remove fraudulent products from the marketplace as soon as possible.”  EPA is also coordinating with the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal partners to bring the full force of the law against those selling fraudulent or unregistered products.

Based on tips, complaints, and research, EPA has identified illegal products that are claiming anti-viral, antibacterial, disinfectant, sterilizing, or sanitizing properties but have not gone through EPA’s robust registration process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and are not legal for sale in the United States.  EPA only registers disinfectants that can be used effectively against the novel coronavirus on surfaces.  Non-registered products may not effectively eliminate the virus or reduce the spread of the virus and could even be harmful to consumers’ health.  Consumers are urged to refer to EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (List N) for EPA-registered disinfectants that EPA has determined to be safe and effective against the novel coronavirus.

The following is a list of some of the unregistered products that have been identified. EPA typically enforces FIFRA through stop-sale orders and penalty actions. EPA provided the following information to ensure that Americans have as much information as possible to help them protect themselves from COVID-19:

  • Lanyards that illegally claim to protect wearers from coronavirus:
  • Unregistered disinfectant tablets:
    • “Epidemic prevention Chlorinating Tablets Disinfectant Chlorine Tablets Swimming Pool Instant Disinfection Tablets Chlorine Dioxide Effervescent Tablet Chlorine Disinfectant 100g Cozy apposite Fun Suit”
    • “The Flu Virus Buster, CLO2 Disinfection Sticker, Removable sterilize air purifier, Anti COVID-19, Stop Coronavirus disease infection /Influenza Buster Disinfectant 1 Box/10 Tablets”
  • Unregistered disinfectant sprays:
    • “Fullene silver antibacterial solution/24 Hour Defense Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Spray Against Corona Virus COVID- 19 Kills 99.99% of Germs Bacteria 24 Hours of Lasting Protection Alcohol Free 50ml (1.7 fl. oz.)”
  • Unregistered disinfectant wipes:
    • “99.9% Sterilization Wipes/16/32/48/64/96pcs Sterilization Rate of 99% Disinfection Wet Wipes and Paper Napkin Prevention of Coronavirus”

Additional information on the recent telephone conference is available here.