By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) to ViaClean Technologies (ViaClean), operating in Philadelphia, regarding the sales, distribution, and marketing of the pesticide BioProtect RTU with claims that it is effective against surfaces from public health-related pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered with EPA. Public health claims can only be made regarding products that have been properly tested and are registered with EPA.
In this case, BioProtect RTU is a registered pesticide, with label claims approved by EPA, in part, to use the product to inhibit the growth of odor causing bacteria that cause staining and discoloration, and algae. According to EPA, ViaClean provided two BioProtect RTU fact sheets containing public health claims to at least one customer, including the statement that the pesticide can be used to kill “germs.” EPA also alleged that some online distributors, cleaning services, and end-recipients of BioProtect RTU were also making claims that this product is effective against pathogens, germs, disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and/or SARS-CoV-2 for up to 90 days.
EPA’s issuance of the SSURO is thus based on EPA’s belief that ViaClean was selling, distributing, and marketing BioProtect RTU with public health claims that have not been substantiated or approved through the pesticide registration process. EPA states that it is concerned that customers may have used this product as protection from viruses -- SARS-CoV-2 -- in lieu of other EPA-approved disinfection methods.
This case is another example of EPA’s enforcement priorities and vigilance over the past year to identify products making claims to act against the coronavirus and taking action to prevent further sales when such products are not approved by EPA to make such claims.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On October 15, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Electrolux Home Products, Inc. (Electrolux) to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for importing air filter products that contain nanosilver. Specifically, the settlement resolves EPA’s claims that Electrolux imported unregistered pesticides in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A) and failed to file the required Notices of Arrival in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(N). As part of the settlement, Electrolux will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $6,991,400. The Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) is available here.
According to EPA, Electrolux imported approximately 420,000 Frigidaire brand dehumidifiers and air conditioners that contained filters incorporating an unregistered nanosilver and that were labeled and marketed with pesticidal claims. With regard to the incorporation of nanosilver, there currently are no nanosilver pesticide products registered with EPA for use in home appliances to disinfect the ambient air or protect the health of the user. The only nanosilver pesticides that are currently registered with EPA are approved solely for incorporation into textiles to protect those articles themselves from antimicrobial pests such as mold and bacteria that can cause deterioration, discoloration, or odors. In those cases, the products (textiles) incorporated with nanosilver can be exempt from FIFRA registration under the “treated article” exemption. With regard to the claims, EPA states that claims it considers pesticidal include “antibacterial filter,” and “helps eliminate bacteria in the air that can make breathing difficult.”
The penalty in this case is significant, and represents a potentially growing trend for penalty amounts substantially higher than past cases. This trend is due at least in part to the inflation adjustments to statutory civil penalty amounts, as discussed further here.
In addition to the civil penalty, the CAFO states that Electrolux has replaced the filters manufactured with nanosilver and removed the online and on-box pesticidal claims for the products it had imported, as well as some additional products already in the United States. The CAFO states:
The SSURO also provided for the movement of subject products for the purpose of consolidating the products for a rework project whereby Respondent, among other things, would replace the filter manufactured with nanosilver contained in each unit with a filter that was not manufactured with a pesticidal substance, affix a sticker with modified language over any pesticidal claims on the product packaging, and remove all pesticidal claims made for the subject products in Respondent’s online marketing
The CAFO further states that “Respondent offered to rework all dehumidifiers and air conditioners that contained a filter manufactured with nanosilver within its possession regardless of the date those products were imported.” To date, EPA states that Electrolux has brought over 500,000 air conditioners and dehumidifiers into compliance.
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.
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 R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson
EPA recently released the Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) for the October 31, 2019, settlement discussed in our blog post “EPA Settles Two Cases Regarding Unregistered and Misbranded Pesticides.” This October 31, 2019, settlement between U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 and AFCO C&S, LLC (AFCO), a chemical company located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Pursuant to the CAFO, AFCO agreed to pay a $1,489,000 penalty to settle the alleged violations that involved the use of 12 products to clean and sanitize food and beverage processing facilities.
The CAFO provides more information on the violations Region 3 alleged. The CAFO allegations state that AFCO sold and distributed 10unregistered pesticide products on at least 1,031 separate occasions in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A). The CAFO also alleges that AFCO sold and distributed a product that made claims beyond those permitted by its FIFRA registration on at least five separate occasions. It additionally alleges that AFCO sold or distributed a misbranded pesticide on 41 separate occasions.
EPA initially collected the information during an inspection of AFCO’s establishment in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on June 20, 2016. The settlement also addresses violations of a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) that EPA issued to AFCO on July 13, 2018, requiring AFCO to immediately cease all sales and distributions of the 12 products. The CAFO alleges that AFCO engaged in sales and distributions that violated this order, having sold or distributed the products from at least January 1, 2015, through either August 8 or August 9, 2019. AFCO has since discontinued sales of all of the involved products, except for one registered product, for which EPA issued an Order Modification letter on March 4, 2019, allowing AFCO to recommence sales.
AFCO will pay the civil penalty within one year in 12 equal monthly installments, plus interest payment of $7,954.96, totaling $1,496,954.96.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently settled two cases involving allegations of non-compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Although the Consent Agreement and Final Orders (CAFO) and Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders (SSURO) issued in these cases are not yet available online, the penalty amounts at issue -- $200,000 and $1,489,000 -- reflect increased enforcement in targeted areas and EPA’s willingness to seek and obtain heroic penalties.
On November 18, 2019, EPA Region 9 announced that Decon7 Systems LLC (Decon7) would pay a $200,000 civil penalty in a settlement related to FIFRA violations. Specifically, EPA found that Decon 7:
- Sold and distributed two products that were not registered with EPA. These products, “D7 Part 1” and “D7 Part 2,” combined to disinfect hard nonporous surfaces. EPA regulations (40 C.F.R. § 152.15) set forth the conditions under which EPA will consider a product to be a pesticide product required to be registered, including but not limited to products containing certain “active” ingredients and/or making claims to kill, repel, or “disinfect” certain pests (e.g., germs, bacteria, viruses).
- Sold and distributed pesticides that were labeled with false and misleading claims regarding safety and efficacy. In addition to misleading efficacy claims to kill all bacteria, viruses, and fungi, EPA states:
The products also had false and misleading safety claims, which created the incorrect impression that the products were noncorrosive and nontoxic. The products’ formulations in fact could have caused skin burns and irreversible eye damage. The products’ labeling also claimed the products were used by various federal government agencies to clean up buildings following anthrax attacks, implying that the federal government recommends or endorses their use.
- Exported unregistered pesticides that did not include necessary notifications and failed to comply with reporting obligations following a SSURO issued to the company in 2018.
On October 31, 2019, EPA Region 3 announced that it reached an agreement with AFCO C&S, LLC (AFCO), a chemical company located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to resolve alleged FIFRA violations. AFCO agreed to pay a $1,489,000 penalty to settle the alleged violations that involved the use of 12 products to clean and sanitize food and beverage processing facilities. EPA alleges that AFCO sold and distributed ten unregistered pesticide products, a misbranded product, and a product that made claims beyond those permitted by its FIFRA registration.
The settlement also addresses violations of a SSURO that EPA issued to AFCO on July 13, 2018. AFCO engaged in sales and distributions that violated this order. AFCO has since discontinued sales of all of the involved products, except for one registered product.