In one of their first attempts to regulate the online marketplace, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle said they’ve reached a settlement with Amazon over distribution of illegal pesticides.
According to EPA officials, it was interns at the agency who first spotted banned and mislabeled pesticides being offered for sale on Amazon.
Chad Schulze, the EPA’s case officer in the investigation, said the products included a cockroach pesticide produced in chalk form that has harmed children in the past.
“A child could think this chalk is actually just regular sidewalk chalk and that dramatically increases their risk of exposure, so it’s very important that we stop the sale of these products,” he said.
Some products also contained false and misleading statements that they were harmless for human beings and pets. Schulze said any legal pesticide should have an EPA registration number.
Ed Kowalski heads the EPA’s office of compliance and enforcement in the Seattle office. He said during the investigation, EPA employees bought samples of the banned products and inspected Amazon warehouses.
“After discovering and purchasing several illegal pesticides available on Amazon.com, we issued two ‘stop sale’ orders,” he said. “One in mid-2015 to prevent the sale of pesticidal chalk products and a second one in 2016 for insect bait powders and mosquito repellent.”
In both cases Amazon immediately pulled the products and reimbursed customers. Kowalski said Amazon agreed to pay a penalty of $1.2 million for the approximately 2,000 products that were shipped.
“Amazon has also committed to developing and operating an online training program to educate internet retailers on the pesticide laws. We are encouraged by this project and expect it to reduce the number of illicit products that are being sold online,” Kowalski said.
EPA investigators said the feature on Amazon’s website that recommends additional products, under the heading “Customers who bought this item also bought,” actually assisted their investigation by listing, in some cases, more illegal pesticide products.
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said, “regulatory compliance is a top priority at Amazon,” and “when sellers don’t comply with our terms, we work quickly to take action on behalf of customers.”