(Beyond Pesticides, December 14, 2021) Multinational technology corporation Amazon.com, Inc will pay $2.5 million as part of a settlement with the Washington state Attorney General over illegal sales of highly toxic restricted use pesticides. The company has entered into a consent decree with the state of Washington, requiring the retailer to perform certain actions if it wants to restart pesticide sales, in addition to the fine. This is the second major penalty Amazon has received for illegal pesticide sales in recent years. The company was fined $1.2 million by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018. Heath advocates are applauding Washington State officials for addressing the issue and urging increased vigilance and enforcement from other states regarding illegal online pesticide sales.
According to the legal complaint, between 2013-2020, Amazon sold thousands of both restricted and general use pesticides to individuals in the state of Washington without a pesticide sales license. The company failed to disclose this information to consumers, and also failed to connect information from buyers of restricted use pesticides, a requirement in Washington state. As a result of Amazonâ€™s illegal activities, there are now thousands of highly hazardous pesticides being used in Washington without documentation on its use site or location. In addition to its own sales, the company is accused of facilitating illegal sales from third party dealers, who also violated aforementioned licensing and documentation requirements. As the legal complaint reads, â€śAmazonâ€™s sale and distribution of RUPs [restricted use pesticides] and GUP-Ls in Washington is a matter of public interest because itÂ endangered consumer health and welfare, and the environment. Some of these pesticides can causeÂ damage or injury toÂ and, humans, desirable plants and animals, or wildlife.â€ť
In addition to paying Washington State $2.5 million, under the consent decree Amazon is required to obtain a pesticide seller license if it plans to continue selling pesticides. It must track the pesticides it is listing for sale and prohibit illegal sales. If a customer â€śinadvertentlyâ€ť purchased a restricted use pesticide, Amazon is also required to notify them and work with the customer to dispose of the product, reimbursing the customer for their costs. Third-party sellers will also be required to obtain a license and maintain sales records.
â€śAmazon is a powerful corporation â€” but itâ€™s not above the law,â€ť said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. â€śI will continue to serve as an independent watchdog to protect consumers and our environment, and ensure this major Washington company complies with the law.â€ť
Enforcement around online pesticide sales in an ongoing concern. In 2018, Amazonâ€™s $1.2 million settlement addressed a different illegal practice related to pesticide sales. In this case, Amazon racked up nearly 4,000 violations for allowing third-party sellers to sell imported pesticides that are not registered in the United States. The products sold contained false and misleading statements of safety on their labels, and contain active ingredients like synthetic pyrethroids, propoxur, and azamethiphos, a chemical not permitted in the U.S. In one egregious example, EPA noted the sale of chalk products, applied by drawing a pesticide-laden barrier on a surface the user does not want an insect to cross and survive. They are often packaged in bright colors making the products look like sidewalk chalk, toys or even candy. Children can easily open and play with the products, or even put them in their mouths.
Given the repeat violations, some advocates say that Amazon should not be permitted to sell pesticides online at all any longer. Beyond the illegal sales, the company continues to sell pollinator-toxic insecticides on its website, ignoring the concerns of pollinator advocates that urged the company to stop. A non-exhaustive list produced by Beyond Pesticides at the time identified over 100 products dangerous to pollinators, many of which are still being sold by the company today.
Concerned residents are encouraged to attempt and exhaust nontoxic pest management practices first before considering the use of even an organic compatible pesticide. Try to purchase pesticide products directly from your local home and garden centers. If they donâ€™t carry less these less toxic products, use tools like the Making the Switch webpage to start a conversation about transitioning to safer product selections.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.