Daily News Archive
Largest Pesticide Enforcement Penalty in U.S. History
(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2003) New York State
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced on Monday, December 15 that
Dow AgroSciences, LLC, a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, will
pay a $2 million penalty for illegally advertising safety claims about
its pesticide products in New York between 1995 and 2003. This is the
largest enforcement penalty ever obtained in a pesticide case.
"Pesticides are toxic substances that should be used with great
caution," said Attorney General Spitzer. "By misleading consumers
about the potential dangers associated with the use of their products,
Dow's ads may have endangered human health and the environment by encouraging
people to use their products without proper care." Consumer and
public health advocates hailed the settlement.
Edward Groth III, PhD, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, publishers
of Consumer Reports, said: "Chlorpyrifos (Dursban) was one of the
most highly toxic active ingredients used in home pesticides. Dow's
exaggerated safety claims for this very toxic chemical, cited in the
Attorney General's lawsuit, were simply outrageous. Consumers should
thank Eliot Spitzer for putting a stop to such gross corporate deception."
Dr. Philip Landrigan, chair of the Department of Community and Preventive
Medicine at Mount Sinai Medial Center, said: "Excellent studies
conducted by independent scientists have clearly shown that chlorpyrifos,
the active ingredient in Dursban, is toxic to the human brain and nervous
system and is especially dangerous to the developing brain of infants.
I applaud the actions of Attorney General Spitzer to stop these misleading
and potentially dangerous safety claims." For more information
about hazards associated with chlorpyrifos, see Beyond Pesticides’
Spitzer sued Dow for repeatedly violating a 1994 agreement with New
York State prohibiting advertising touting the safety of its pesticide
products. As part of the 1994 agreement, the company agreed to stop
making claims that its products were "safe." However, an investigation
by Spitzer's office found that almost immediately after the company
entered into the agreement it once again began to make misleading safety
claims in its print, video and internet advertising.
Pursuant to a Consent Judgment signed December 12 by Judge Joan Madden
in Manhattan Supreme Court, Dow is required to pay a $2 million penalty,
is barred from making safety claims about its pesticide products, and
is required to implement a compliance program consisting of the following
A complete internal review of all advertisements being published by
Dow or its agents in New York State and removal of any advertisement
that makes safety claims about pesticide products;
The appointment of an attorney working under the company's Director
of Ethics and Compliance who will be responsible for reviewing and
approving all advertising. No advertisement will be published in New
York State unless it has first been reviewed by the appointed attorney;
A training program regarding federal and state law and the consent
judgment for all employees and advertising agency personnel involved
in creating or reviewing advertisements.
investigation in the early 1990s by the Attorney General Office found
that Dow engaged in false and misleading advertising that violated both
state and federal laws. In exchange for not paying fines for its illegal
advertising claims, Dow signed an agreement with the state in 1994 in
which it pledged to reform its advertising and marketing practices.
The Attorney General's investigation revealed that, after the 1994 agreement,
Dow continued to illegally advertise the safety of chlorpyrifos and
other pesticides. The investigation centered on Dow's advertising of
the Dursban™ pesticide product line, which contains chlorpyrifos,
a synthetic chemical compound that has been linked to severe health
problems in humans, including poisoning, nerve damage and birth defects.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency, specifically citing health
risks to children, took action in 2000 to prohibit most household uses
As recently as March, 2003, Dow's internet site included the statement:
"Consumer exposure from labeled use of chlorpyrifos products provides
wide margins of safety for both adults and children." In contrast,
Dow's safety data sheet for Durban TC™ (chlorpyrifos) states that
excessive vapor concentrations are attainable and could be hazardous
on single exposure."
See NY Attorney
for a more complete list of false and misleading safety claims made
by Dow, or call (518) 473-5525 for more information. The matter was
handled in the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau by
Assistant Attorney General Philip Bein, Affirmative Litigation Chief
Lemuel Srolovic, and Chief Scientist Michael Surgan.