EPA Warns of Toxins in Unregistered, Candy-like Mothballs

EPA discovered that a Brooklyn-based company has attempted to import candy-shaped mothballs from China that contain a toxic chemical and are not registered with EPA, as federal law requires, according to the agency.

The mothballs, uncovered during an inspection of a shipment at a warehouse in Kearny, N.J., could be mistaken for candy and are suspected of containing an active ingredient called para-dichlorobenzene. Officials discovered about 4800 brightly decorated bags of the product, called Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets.

EPA is looking into whether the product has reached stores and is asking the public to look out for the mothballs while it continues its investigation. No one should purchase the Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets. If a consumer has bought them, he or she should contact EPA at (732) 321-4461 for assistance in properly disposing of them.

“EPA wants to make sure that no one gets sick from these illegal imported toxic pesticides,” said Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator. “Importing pesticide products that are not registered with EPA is a serious violation. The registration process ensures that we know what pesticides are in the products, and that they have labels with directions for proper use. Mothballs sold in colorful packaging that resemble candy pose a particular risk to children.”

Inhaling para-dichlorobenzene can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress and other illnesses. Swallowing it can damage the nervous system and, in extreme cases, can cause coma or death. In this case, the product’s similarity in appearance to candy makes accidental poisonings a real threat. On November 2, EPA received a routine notice from an importer seeking permission to bring a disinfection product containing a pesticide into the U.S. EPA reviewed the paperwork and discovered that there was no EPA registration number listed for the product, Dettol Disinfectant Laundry Sanitizer. The Agency contacted the importer and requested that the shipment be made available for inspection.

On November 5, the importer brought the shipment to a warehouse in Kearny, N.J. for EPA inspection. During this inspection, the Agency not only confirmed that the Dettol Disinfectant Laundry Sanitizer was not registered and did not have an EPA-approved label, but it also discovered a large quantity of the Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets. The illegal products are being held in Kearny, and EPA has directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize and destroy them. EPA and CBP offices around the country were alerted about the attempted importation of the Fuji Lavender Moth Tablets because of the concerns about their candy-like appearance.

On November 9, EPA conducted a subsequent inspection of the importer’s Brooklyn warehouse and has identified several similar products that may be illegal and are being held while the agency’s investigation continues.

“The removal of this significant threat to the public’s safety and health demonstrates CBP’s vigilance in protecting the United States,” said Robert E. Perez, director of CBP’s New York field office. “Fortunately, CBP has forged great working relationships with other agencies; this latest example of interoperability with EPA bears that relationship out.”

Producers of any pesticide-containing product sold in the United States must register that product with EPA. Before a product is registered, EPA examines the ingredients, the manner of use, and storage and disposal practices. It also assesses a wide variety of potential human health and environmental effects associated with use of the product. The pesticide producer must provide data from tests done according to EPA guidelines, to ensure that the product does not cause illness.

Illegal pesticide products are toxic and may contain unknown ingredients. Consumers may unknowingly purchase illegal products that have not been thoroughly tested and do not have proper labels. “Do not ever buy a pesticide that does not have an EPA registration number on the container,” Enck said.

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