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Samsung Fined For Antimicrobial Keyboard Claims

(Beyond Pesticides, October 23, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined Samsung for violating the federal pesticide law when it publicized that its keyboards, produced with nanosilver, were antimicrobial and inhibited germs and bacteria without registering its products with EPA. The claims made on the company’s labels and promotional material for netbook and notebook computer laptops would render the products pesticides, requiring registration by EPA. Dell also has keyboards treated with nanosilver for antimicrobial purposes which are registered with EPA.

Nanosilver has been promoted for its antibacterial properties and is used in many products such as sporting goods, band-aids, clothing, baby and infant products, and food and food packaging. However, very little is known about where these particles end up when such products are put to use. Many consider silver to be more toxic than other metals when in nanoscale form and that these particles have a different toxicity mechanism compared to dissolved silver. Scientists have concluded that nanoparticles can pass easily into cells and affect cellular function, depending on their shape and size. Preliminary research with laboratory rats has found that silver nanoparticles can traverse into the brain, and can induce neuronal degeneration and necrosis (death of cells or tissue) by accumulating in the brain over a long period of time.

The federal pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), is designed to regulate the sale and use of pesticides in the U.S. Before a pesticide can be sold or distributed in the country, FIFRA requires that registration be obtained from EPA. In making a registration decision, EPA must determine that the pesticide, when used in accordance with label directions, will not cause unreasonable adverse effects to human health or the environment. Without a pesticide product in its registration database, EPA cannot, for example, prescribe labeling requirements that set forth effective warnings and specific directions for use. Under FIFRA, silver nanoparticles meet the definition of a pesticide; that is, as a substance that is intended to disinfect, sanitize, reduce, or mitigate growth or development of microbiological organisms. As such, silver nanoparticles, with their antimicrobial activity, should and must be regulated by EPA as a pesticide.

Consumer products that include nano-based technologies continue to grow, and cases like this have become much more common, including a recent lawsuit involving the sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides by The North Face. An AgION silver treated footbed, which the company claimed to have antimicrobial properties, was featured in over 70 styles of their shoes.

In this case, Samsung will pay a $205,000 fine and provide a certification that it has complied with FIFRA by removing all pesticidal claims made in connection with the sales and distributions of these products. Additionally, Samsung has notified its retailers and distributors to remove any pesticidal claims from labels, promotional brochures and internet/Web-based content for the subject products.

For more information on nanosilver, visit the Nanosilver section at our Antibacterial Program Page.

Source: EPA Press Release


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