Washington, DC — Less than one week after it observed National Poison Prevention Week , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing a policy to allow promotional marketing on pesticide labels now exclusively dedicated to safety and proper usage information, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Public comment on the EPA plan, which has the agency reviewing details of charitable tie-ins and third party endorsements, ends tomorrow
The contents of pesticide labels are regulated by EPA. Last year, the agency proposed allowing marketing promotions on all pesticide labels after it approved a Clorox campaign displaying the symbol of the American Red Cross on its bleach and other microbicide products as part of a donation pledge pitch.
According to scores of comments filed by state agencies, public health officials and consumer groups, EPA’s proposed approval of third-party endorsements and charitable tie-ins on pesticide safety labels will distract consumers from important directions and cautions. EPA itself, as part of its National Poison Prevention Week (March 16-22) web outreach, notes that –
- “Every 13 seconds, U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call about someone being exposed to a poison …over 77,000 calls made to poison centers with concerns about exposure to common household pesticides”;
- “Common products that could seriously harm a child if ingested include: bath and kitchen disinfectants and sanitizers, including bleach …”; and
- “EPA, industry and others [work] together in a voluntary cooperative effort to make it easier for consumers to find, read, and understand label information.”
“EPA admits that misuse of pesticides is a major public health problem yet its leadership is willing to dilute the only regulatory tool at its disposal – the safety label,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA is disregarding its own guidance that use of symbols like the Red Cross on poisons is misleading. “These commercial tie-ins do nothing to protect children but may endanger them.”
Under the plan, EPA would review every aspect of endorsements from celebrities or prominent groups as well as tie-ins with charities. Documents obtained by PEER from EPA under the Freedom of Information show large amounts of regulatory time spent referring promotional claims for the Clorox-Red Cross tie-in.
“Pesticide companies are now able to advertise all they want on TV and radio and in supermarket aisles; the only small zone free from promotional clutter is the safety label,” Ruch added. “Doesn’t EPA have something better to do with its time than wordsmithing advertising copy?”