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Rhode Island Company Settles Major EPA Pesticide Case

Release Date: 03/04/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1008

For Immediate Release: March 4, 2004; Release # 04-03-02

BOSTON - A North Kingston, RI manufacturer has agreed to a settlement worth $500,000 to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it failed to properly register a mosquito attractant that was a part of a pesticide product it sold nationwide in 2002. The settlement is the largest ever in a New England pesticide case.

According to the enforcement agreement, the American Biophysics Corp. (ABC) must pay a $300,000 penalty and carry out three environmental and public-health related projects worth at least $200,000. The company makes the "Mosquito Magnet," equipment used to control biting insects.

The settlement resolves a complaint filed by EPA in March 2003 charging that ABC failed to properly register and label a pesticide containing an attractant called "octenol" before widely distributing or selling it, as part of its Mosquito Magnet product, during 2002.

"This important settlement offers the potential for significant public health and environmental benefits, but also sends a clear message to those regulated by our pesticide laws that EPA can and will undertake strong enforcement to deal with noncompliance," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Compliance with federal pesticide laws helps ensure that pesticides sold to the public are effective and present no unreasonable risks when used as intended."

The formal settlement consists of a consent agreement and final order. The projects, intended to provide environmental and public health benefits beyond what the law requires, include:

    • a mosquito control effectiveness and surveillance program in Rhode Island;
    • donation of mosquito source control equipment to the state of Rhode Island for mosquito abatement through salt marsh water management and;
    • donation of mosquito traps to numerous local or state entities nationwide for mosquito-related research, surveillance, and control.
In working out this agreement, EPA negotiators received technical help from various EPA offices as well as nationally-known entomologists who are experts in mosquitoes and vector-borne diseases like West Nile Virus. These experts were from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the Office of Mosquito Abatement Coordination at the RI Department of Environmental Management.

The largest of the projects, a mosquito control and surveillance program, requires the company to undertake a rigorous scientific analysis of existing and alternative larvicidal efforts in Rhode Island, focusing special attention on common stormwater retention/detention ponds designed to minimize runoff from man-made structures or surfaces. The project is expected to provide critical, "real time" surveillance data that will enhance existing efforts by state officials to identify and control vector-bourne disease, such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

The agreement includes a certification by ABC that it is now in compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the federal law under which EPA's original enforcement action was taken.

Over the past few years, ABC has seen significant growth in sales of its "Mosquito Magnet." Similar in appearance to a gas grill, these machines use propane and a small cartridge containing octenol to lure bugs towards a vacuum where they are drawn into a bag to dehydrate and die.

The EPA complaint specifically alleged that ABC produced and sold the octenol attractant, considered a pesticide under FIFRA, from March to July 2002 without a valid EPA registration number and with labeling that EPA found to be false or misleading. For example, EPA found labels containing the words "Safe - Not A Pesticide" and "Environmentally Friendly."

The complaint charged the company with nearly 200 specific instances of distributing or selling the pesticide in violation of the law. The settlement agreement with EPA acknowledges that ABC neither admits nor denies the violations alleged in the complaint.

Upon discovering the illegal pesticide sales, EPA issued a stop-sale order July 10, 2002, requiring ABC to cease further sale or distribution of the unregistered and misbranded pesticide products. EPA Headquarters in Washington approved ABC's application to register its octenol, on July 26, 2002. Thereafter, the company resumed the sale of these products.

Related Information:
Pesticide Program
Pesticides Enforcement