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New Efforts to Alert Residents of the Hazards of Illegal Pesticides In New York's Chinese Community
(Beyond Pesticides, August 17, 1004)
On the steps of New York’s City Hall, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny, New York City Councilman John C. Liu and leaders from New York's Chinese community came together on August 5, 2004, to draw attention to the dangers of illegal pesticides. Councilman Liu and Ms. Kenny were joined by York Chan, President of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Peter Koo, President of the Flushing Chinese Business Association and Katy Chaw, Director of Health and Human Services of the Brooklyn Chinese Association. Together they unveiled a new Chinese language poster that gives people important information about illegal pesticides. The poster will be displayed in storefronts in Chinese neighborhoods throughout the city.

"Make no mistake about it, illegal pesticides are highly toxic and they are sold every day on the streets of New York City" said EPA's Kenny. "By educating consumers not to purchase these products and businesses not to import and sell them, we and our partners will protect countless adults and children from unnecessary harm."

"I applaud the EPA on its proactive efforts to warn people about the dangers of illegal pesticides," said Councilman Liu. "Unfortunately because of lack of information, many people buy these illegal pesticides, which not only kill pests, but can also seriously harm the people using them. This education campaign will keep many people from being injured by these illegal pesticides."

EPA has geared its public service campaign to the Chinese communities of New York and New Jersey because many of these highly toxic illegal pesticides are imported from China. Many people who speak only in Chinese may purchase these products because the labels are in their native tongue. But EPA has found that illegal insect and rodent poisons from China are often much more toxic than EPA registered products.

These products are imported into the U.S. illegally, and are often sold on the street, primarily in low income and/or minority and immigrant areas. Several of these pesticides have killed people. To address this problem, EPA developed an Urban Illegal Pesticides Initiative to warn communities of the hazards of such products, and to inform shopkeepers that it is illegal to sell them.

EPA inspections of more than 100 large and mid-sized stores in New York City and urban areas in New Jersey netted more than 90 different kinds of illegal pesticides. EPA also identified three distribution centers with large quantities of illegal products in Maspeth, Queens. EPA put the stores on notice that they are breaking the law. Those that ignore the warning could face cash penalties. In fact, since 2000, EPA has collected over $1 million in penalties from stores that sold illegal pesticides.

"Before purchasing any pesticide, look for the EPA registration number on the container," said Ms. Kenny. "If the product doesn't have a number, it is illegal."

Because illegal products never go through EPA's pesticide registration process, the Agency does not know what chemicals these products may contain, how toxic they may be, or what their effects might be on people. Illegal pesticides may contain label language that is misleading; many make claims of safety and efficacy that have not been proven.

EPA registration does not mean that a product is safe. In fact, EPA believes that no pesticide can ever be considered perfectly "safe." The U.S. General Accounting Office has told Congress on several occasions that the public is misled on pesticide safety by pesticide applicator statements characterizing pesticides as "safe" or "harmless."

TAKE ACTION: Avoid unsafe products by managing pests through non-toxic and least-toxic means. Check out Beyond Pesticides' Alternative Fact Sheets for more information.