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EPA warns consumers who bought banned ant bait online

Consumer Reports News: March 24, 2011 01:33 PM

More than 2,800 consumers who bought a banned ant-control pesticide online have been contacted by the Environmental Protection Agency and told that the product, Fast Ant Bait, is illegal and can make them sick. Produced in China, the pesticide contains mirex, which has been banned in the U.S. since 1978. It was sold by as well as on eBay, CCNow and

The EPA was alerted to the issue when a woman in Washington state became ill after using the ant bait in her home. Mirex can cause liver, skin, reproductive and nerve damage and is a probable carcinogen, according to the EPA. Because it's so toxic, the EPA obtained the sales records from eBay, CCNow and and sent everyone who purchased the ant bait a letter warning them of the danger and telling them how to safely dispose of the bait through local hazardous waste programs.

"Illegal pesticides are often much more toxic than approved pesticides," said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. "When EPA takes a pesticide off the market, it means that pesticide was not safe. Consumers should use only EPA-registered pesticides and always follow the label directions to ensure their safety."

In its letter to consumers, the EPA noted that the "directions and precautions on the label were written entirely in Chinese" with the exception of a small section written in English that does not meet the agency's safety standards. The EPA also warned consumers that is selling another illegal product called Antimos Mosquito Repellent that has not been registered with the agency and may also be toxic.

Mirex was used for 16 years (1962-1978) in the Southeast to control the imported fire ant. Eight of the infested states border on the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico or both. Mirex became controversial when it was found to be highly toxic to a variety of marine crustaceans. Because it does not break down easily, traces of mirex can still be found in the environment. It becomes more concentrated as it moves up the food chain to humans and other animals.

The EPA has extensive information about legal pesticides on its website including what a proper pesticide label should look like and say.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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