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EPA and MTA Join Forces to Protect Residents from the Threats of Illegal Pesticides; 7,500 Posters in Subways and Buses Warn about "Tres Pasitos" and Insecticide Chalk

Release Date: 08/30/2001
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(#01113) New York, N.Y. -- Starting September 1, 2001, New Yorkers on their daily commute will receive important information about protecting themselves and their children from illegal pesticides. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have teamed up on a new public service campaign that will appear in New York City buses and subways. The agencies' joint "SubTalk" and "BusTalk" illegal pesticides campaign posters warn English and Spanish-speaking New Yorkers about products sold on the street that promise to kill bugs and rodents, but are so highly toxic that they can have serious negative effects on people B especially small children.

"One of the most successful ways to reduce the use of these harmful products is to make people aware of the very real risks of bringing them into their home," said William J. Muszynski, EPA Acting Regional Administrator. "We are pleased that the MTA collaborated with us and offered space in subways and buses for ads that will be seen by millions of riders. We could not have asked for a better partner to help us get the message out from Morrisania to Maspeth to Midtown"

EPA is very concerned about the proliferation of illegal pesticides in New York City and in urban parts of New Jersey. These products include  "Tres Pasitos," a mouse and rat poison imported illegally from Latin America, and "Insecticide Chalk," a roach poison imported illegally from China. EPA has found that some parents of children with asthma, desperate to rid their homes of the roaches and mice they know are asthma triggers, may unwittingly introduce their children to the far greater health risks of these illegal products. All pesticides sold and manufactured in the U.S. must first go through EPA's rigorous pesticide registration process. During this process, the agency reviews health and environmental data about a product before deciding whether it can be sold and used without posing an undue risk to people or the environment. Tres Pasitos, Insecticide Chalk and other illegal pesticides have not been through EPA's registration process, and have been found to be more toxic and more dangerous than any product EPA would register for use in the home by residents.

"Tres Pasitos," which in Spanish means "three little steps," is so named because it is all mice can muster after eating it. The pesticide in Tres Pasitos is a chemical called aldicarb, an agricultural pesticide, which EPA has rated among the most toxic pesticides. The word "danger" must appear on any registered product containing aldicarb, and such products may only be applied by licensed pesticide applicators. Ingestion of "Tres Pasitos" can easily cause death or severe neurological damage in a young child. It is sometimes mixed with rice and applied around the house to kill rodents, which increases the risk that an infant or toddler might ingest it.

Insecticide Chalk, also sold as "Miraculous Chalk" or "Pretty Baby Chalk," is often sold for $1 a box. The box bears messages in both English and Chinese, some of which read: "Harmless to humans and pets" and "Safe to use." But according to EPA, Insecticide Chalk is anything but. The pesticide in the product has been identified as deltamethrin (although this may vary from batch to batch) B one of the most powerful pesticides in its chemical class of synthetic pyrethroids. Among EPA's main concerns is the product's strong resemblance to regular children's chalk. Children may pick up the chalk, draw with it and put it in their mouths, creating a serious health risk.

The Snyder Group, a Norwalk, Connecticut-based design and marketing agency, donated its design services to create the EPA/MTA campaign. The posters will appear in 4,500 city buses and 3,000 subway cars through the end of September.