EPA Fines Logitech for Antibacterial Claims, Consumers Are Misled by Marketing of Products with Antimicrobials
(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered computer peripherals maker Logitech, Inc. to pay a fine of $261,000 for illegally advertising one of its keyboards as protecting users from bacteria and microbes. EPA found that the company made unsubstantiated public health claims about its keyboard, a violation of federal law. However, the widespread marketing of hundreds of products that are advertised as containing antibacterial ingredients (without a health claim), which EPA maintains is not technically illegal, underscores the misconception consumers have when purchasing products that incorporate ”˜antibacterials.’ Beyond Pesticides has ueged EPA to prohibit more broadly advertising references to these antibacterial ingredients, since they imply that public health protection extends to the user when in fact it does not.
Logitech”˜s keyboard incorporates a pesticide- AgION silver -and then alleges protection from bacteria and other microbes. According to EPA, the company marketed the keyboard as protecting the user from bacteria and microbes. However, to promote the health benefits in this way, before products can be sold their product efficacy must be established in compliance with EPA guidelines under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Evidence found online and during an investigation in 2008 led the EPA to issue a complaint against Logitech. Subsequently, Logitech stopped making the claims on the products, removed claims from their website, and revised their product packaging.
Other companies in recent times have been fined by EPA for making false antibacterial public health claims, for example, the lawsuit involving the sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides by The North Face which also featured an AgION silver treated footbed, which the company claimed to have antimicrobial properties and was featured in over 70 styles of their shoes. In 2004, EPA took action against the manufacturers of Microban for making health-related claims that are not supported by its EPA pesticide registration. The company had claimed that its microban-treated plastic protected people, particularly children, from the transmission of bacterial disease. In that case, EPA issued a fine, citing the language of FIFRA §12(a)(1)(B), which states, that each sale or distribution is a violation.
Public health claims are those that state protection for the user from bacteria or other microbial organisms that can lead to health impact. In order to place such a claim on the product label, the company must submit efficacy data to the EPA to review the antibacterial agent. However, most of these ‘antibacterial’ products go unreviewed since they do not make public health claims and only claim to protect the product. This means that hundreds of products with “antibacterial/antimicrobial protection,” such as toys, yoga mats, clothing, kitchen utensils, countertops and others, have not been reviewed by EPA. Consumers may believe that purchasing a product with an ”˜antibacterial’ label may protect them from germs and bacteria when, in fact, there is no additional health benefit.
AgION silver is used in many “antibacterial products” and, while these products do not purport to use nanosized silver materials, the claims that are made for these products are suspiciously similar to those made by manufacturers for other nano-based antimicrobial products. These claims include: inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria; preventing bacterial and fungal growth; and the continuous release of antimicrobial agents. Due of the lack of regulation, nanotechnology products are not always easy to recognize in the marketplace and even the best lists do not include everything. Consumer products that include nanobased technologies however, continue to grow. EPA announced plans to obtain information on nanoscale materials in pesticide products, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft guidelines to industries about when the use of nanomaterials might trigger regulatory interest. This decision was in response to a 2008 legal petition submitted by the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) and a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, demanding EPA use its authority to stop the sale of 250+ consumer products using nanosilver. EPA agreed that the petition “raises serious issues that potentially affect private and public sector stakeholders.” The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) also passed a recommendation directing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to prohibit engineered nanomaterials from certified organic products as expeditiously as possible.
Concerns over nanosilver and other nanomaterials were first raised by national wastewater utilities in early 2006. A 2008 study shows that washing nanosilver socks releases substantial amounts of the nanosilver into the laundry discharge water, which will ultimately reach natural waterways and potentially poison fish and other aquatic organisms. Unfortunately, much remains unknown about these particles’ human health and environmental effects.
For more on nanosilver, visit the nanosilver page.
Take Action: Read the Label! Avoid products labeled “antibacterial product protection” as they may contain triclosan, nanoparticles or other dangerous antibacterial agents.
Source: EPA News Release
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.