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EPA Seeks $1 Million Fine for Pesticide Violations by Rhode Island Company

Release Date: 03/12/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it is proposing a $1 million penalty against the American Biophysics Corp. (ABC) in East Greenwich, R.I. for failing to properly register a mosquito attractant that was a part of a pesticide product line the company was selling worldwide last year. The civil penalty is the largest ever proposed in New England for pesticide violations.

The EPA complaint charges the company with nearly 200 counts of selling and distributing an insect attractant, used in its "Mosquito Magnet" insect-control equipment, without securing the required EPA registration number and without using EPA-approved labeling. The insect attractant contained octenol, which can be toxic to humans. Under federal law, the attractant is defined as a pesticide and therefore must be registered by EPA before it can be sold or distributed in the United States.

The complaint, filed Monday, alleges that ABC produced and sold the attractant from March 2002 to July 2002 without having a valid registration. It also alleges nearly 100 instances where the company mislabeled the "Mosquito Magnet" products by including false or misleading information on the labeling. For example, in many instances labels stated that the pesticide product was "Safe - Not A Pesticide" or was "Environmentally Friendly." Many labels also were marked with an EPA registration number when no such number had been issued by EPA.

"The pesticide registration process is intended to ensure that before a product is sold publicly, the pesticide is found by EPA to be effective and when used in strict compliance with the label directions does not present any unreasonable risks," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "It is unfortunate that this company misled the public by ignoring our nation's pesticide regulations."

Upon discovering the illegal pesticide sales, on July 10, 2002, EPA issued a stop-sale order requiring ABC to cease further sale or distribution of the unregistered and misbranded pesticide products.

On July 26, 2002, EPA Headquarters in Washington approved ABC's application to register its octenol and, thereafter, ABC, with proper labeling, resumed the sale of these products.