Common But Illegal Pest Control Products That Cause Injuries

An increasing presence of insects and other pests is one of the earliest and most frustrating signs of Spring.  While many people use pesticides to control insects in and around their homes, not all pesticides are safe -- particularly those which are only available on the street or in small neighborhood stores.  Many such pesticides (for instance, Chalk or Tres Pasitos) are illegal and commercially unavailable precisely because they're too dangerous to use.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the following pest products are particularly dangerous, illegal, and unfortunately commonly available:

"Illegal naphthalene moth repellent products -- mothballs -- pose a hazard to young children. Mothballs can be easily mistaken for candy, or simply tempt young children to touch and play with them. Recent studies have linked naphthalene to illnesses, including nasal cancer. Widespread sale and distribution of these products make illegal mothballs a particular concern.

Illegal Pet Products, including foreign-labeled, unregistered versions of the common pet products Advantage and Frontline, have been illegally imported and sold throughout the U.S. Though registered for use in other countries, some foreign-labeled versions have omitted important warnings, especially those pertaining to children, that are required in the U.S. Versions imported from such countries as England and Australia often give doses in metric units, which can cause Americans to accidentally over-dose or under-dose pets.
Read more about counterfeit pesticide products for dogs and cats.
Retailer information about counterfeit pesticide products for dogs and cats (PDF).

Illegal Insecticide Chalk is also known as 'Miraculous Chalk' or 'Chinese Chalk.'  You may have seen the chalk in a neighborhood store or sold on the street for about $1 a box.  It is mostly imported illegally from China and often bears a label in both English and Chinese.  Sometimes the manufacturer claims that the chalk is 'harmless to human beings and animals' and 'safe to use.' These claims are untrue and dangerous. 
Read more about insecticide chalk.

'Tres Pasitos'  is imported illegally from Mexico and other Latin American countries.  Its name means 'three little steps' in English, because after eating it, this is all mice can muster before dying.  The active ingredient (or the chemical that actually kills the pest) in 'Tres Pasitos' is a chemical called aldicarb.  EPA considers aldicarb to be a very toxic chemical - and one that should never be used in your home.  Children are especially vulnerable to poisoning by aldicarb when it is sprinkled around the home to control roaches, mice and rats.  Exposure to high amounts of aldicarb can cause weakness, blurred vision, headache, nausea, tearing, sweating, and tremors in people.  Very high doses can kill people, because it can paralyze the respiratory system.  What "Tres Pasitos" does to pests, it can also do to you.

Antibacterial products. Many common household products, ranging from cleansers to cutting boards, claim to protect against bacteria. Such claims are illegal unless the product is registered with EPA or the claim only applies to protecting the item itself from damage by microorganisms, not to provide additional health benefits. In addition, the pesticide used to treat the item must be registered for use in or on the treated item.
Read more about consumer products treated with pesticides.

According to the EPA, following these simple rules can help protect you and those around you from inadvertently purchasing dangerous, illegal pesticides:

  • "Look for an EPA registration number on the pesticide's container.  This number tells you that EPA has reviewed health and environmental information about the pesticide, and if the label says so, that the product is okay to use in your home.

  • Look for a list of the active ingredients on the label.  Any product registered with EPA must state the active ingredients on the label.

  • Trust your instincts.  If a person offers you a product on the street, chances are it is illegal and could harm you and your family.  Shop for pesticides only in stores you know and trust.  If the shopkeeper gives you a product that is packed or wrapped suspiciously, don't buy it.

  • Contact the EPA Regional Pesticide unit that covers your location.  EPA is happy to answer any questions you might have about pesticides you are thinking of using in your home. You can also call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378.

  • Be aware that EPA registers some pesticides (like farm pesticides) that are not meant to be used in the home.  Look for information on the label that states that the product can be used by the general public, indoors, in the home.  

  • When you do find a pesticide that is registered with EPA for use in your home, always remember to read the label first.  EPA reviews all pesticide labels before products can be sold.  If you follow all the label directions, you will reduce your risk of harming yourself and the environment. The label provides important information you need to protect yourself and the children in your care."

    Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

    For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at 202-463-3030.

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