(Beyond Pesticides, February 26, 2009) On February 24, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settled with an Oakland, California, importer for $61,000 for allegedly selling and distributing illegal mothballs, a violation of federal pesticide laws. The importer is accused of distributing unregistered naphthalene mothballs from imported from Taiwan.
Venquest Trading, imported unregistered naphthalene mothballs from Taiwan and distributed them to retailers in California and the Pacific Northwest on 241 separate occasions. EPA’s Pacific Northwest region first discovered the company’s violations during a marketplace initiative to uncover illegal pesticide products. The agency’s Pacific Southwest office later conducted an inspection and uncovered violations at Venquest’s Oakland warehouse.
“Without proper labeling and registration, these illegal pesticides pose a serious threat to human health, particularly children’s health, who can mistake the mothballs for candy,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division for the Pacific Southwest region. “Importing unregistered pesticides is a serious violation, as the registration process ensures we know what the pesticide contains, and that it is properly labeled with precautionary statements and directions for use.”
EPA has fined more than a dozen companies over the last several years for selling illegally imported mothballs. Importers, dealers and retailers can be fined up to $7,500 for each sale of illegal pesticide products. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), all pesticide products, like mothballs, must pass EPA’s risk assessment process to be registered. Although this process is often criticized for not being stringent enough and is plagued with many deficiencies and data gaps, only registered products can be sold and distributed in the U.S. EPA must also ensure that pesticide labels provide consumers with necessary information to use the products safely. Pesticides registered with the agency will have an EPA registration number on the label.
However, mothballs, which are made with either naphthalene or p-dichlorobenzene, both hazardous fumigants, can cause a range of short and long-term health effects, including cancer, blood, kidney, and liver effects. Mothballs, used to protect clothing and other fibers from moths, release harmful vapors which, when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, can cause headaches, dizziness, irritation on to the nose and throat, nausea, and vomiting. Mothballs can also be easily mistaken for candy and can tempt young children to touch, play and put them in their mouths. If ingested, mothballs can be fatal. However, there are many alternative to mothballs including the use of cloves, fresh rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, and bay leaves to repel moths from clothing.
For more information on alternatives to mothballs, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Alternatives webpage.
Source: U.S. EPA Region 9