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EPA Fines Clorox Over Export Labels

(Beyond Pesticides, April 11, 2007) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in an April 10, 2007, press release that it is seeking damages from the Clorox Company for violating pesticide regulations. Fines were levied for multiple violations that involved mislabeled pesticides intended for export.

A fine of $177,300 is based on 38 alleged violations involving unregistered and mislabeled disinfectant bleach, originally intended for export to Asia. The bottles, according to the complaint, were missing appropriate directions for use and did not bear the required wording, “Not Registered for Use in the United States.” The bottles were discovered during an audit of the company, which was prompted by inconsistencies between production and distribution in the Clorox Company’s 2005 yearly report to EPA of its export-only, unregistered products. According to Clorox spokesman Dan Staublin, “The bleach in question was part of a charitable donation that Clorox made to two Los Angeles nonprofit organizations.”

“Companies must ensure that all pesticides meant solely for export do not enter into the U.S. market,” said Enrique Manzanilla, EPA’s Community and Ecosystems Division director for the Pacific Southwest. “Selling or distributing unregistered, mislabeled pesticides is a serious violation that can result in harm to public health and the environment.”

Mr. Staublin said the company disputes EPA’s charges and will “vigorously defend our position.” He also maintained that the bleach in question was produced at the same plant and by the same formula as domestic bleach and were labeled in English, despite EPA’s claim that the label contained Chinese and English.

The press release concluded by saying the labeling and reporting requirements “protect public health and the environment by ensuring safe and effective handling, application, and disposal of pesticides, and by preventing false, misleading, or unverifiable product claims. The law also prohibits marketing of misbranded, improperly labeled, or adulterated pesticides.”

This is the second time in recent months that the Clorox Company has come under fire for improper or misleading labels. Despite opposition from pesticide regulators, several Clorox labels donning the American Red Cross symbol and language were approved by EPA last fall. After learning of this decision, environmental groups petitioned EPA to rescind and deny the labels, citing that the placement of the Red Cross symbol on a pesticide product will mislead consumers and imply safety. This is a violation of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and blatantly goes against EPA policy, which states labels may not include “symbols implying safety or nontoxicity, such as a Red Cross or a medical seal of approval (caduceus).” To read Beyond Pesticides’ press release, letters to government and Red Cross officials, and the Red Cross’s response, click here.

Additional sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Bay City News Wire


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