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Illegal Pesticides: Closer Than You Think

2009 September 24

Six years ago someone poisoned our beloved cat with an illegal pesticide called Tres Pasitos causing her immediate death. This fatal incident made me more aware of the proliferation of these products in our neighborhoods. While I have always keep a close eye on labels to make greener choices, our surroundings are not totally free of harmful products.

In Puerto Rico, EPA has been very active with enforcement actions against those who distribute these highly toxic chemicals. Unfortunately many people don’t even know they are purchasing an illegal product since they are often found in many small neighborhood stores. These non-approved EPA pesticides come in many shapes and forms, such as flea and tick repellents, antibacterial cleansers, and mothballs, as well as products that claim to get rid of household pests. The most common products in our neck of the wood are Tres Pasitos, Chinese Chalk and illegal Naphthalene Mothballs.

Tres Pasitos is imported illegally from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries. Its active ingredient is a chemical called aldicard which is very toxic. Curious by nature, children and pets are vulnerable to poisoning by aldicarb. It is used to kill rats by paralyzing their respiratory system.

Furthermore, insect chalk or Chinese chalk comes in deceiving packaging. This product is imported from China and looks like real chalk. It is extremely dangerous to children who mistakenly play with it. My late grandmother once acquired this dangerous product unknowingly because the vendor told her it was very effective in eliminating cockroaches.

Illegal naphthalene moth repellent balls pose a high risk to children who are very sensitive to toxics because they often mistake it for candy or a toy.

When purchasing a pesticide remember to read the label for proper usage and to find the EPA registration. Prevent children from direct exposure to these products since their biological, neurological and immune systems are still developing. Store pesticides in their original container and in a safe place, preferably high and locked out of the reach from children and pets .  If you have any questions about pesticides, call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378. But most importantly, share this information with your family and neighbors to keep our environment and loved ones (including pets) safe from poisoning.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Johnny R. permalink
    September 24, 2009

    As a society becomes more overpopulated and overcrowded, law and order break down and criminal enterprises flourish before the inevitable collapse.

  2. Jackenson Durand permalink
    September 24, 2009

    Unfortunately, protection is more than challenge.
    Back to my childhood I used to play with ints.
    It is so wonderful, in observing animals’ intelligential behaviors.
    In this new world, we are observing more and more illegality legalizing.
    Protecting, our bio-diversities, is question about geno-chromosial and spiritual heart.

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    September 25, 2009

    This is a great public service you bringing this important issue to the public attention. A lot has been done to protect the public from pesticides, herbacides, and other toxic chemicals since the 1970s but more needs to be done. These chemicals find their way into drinking water and to rivers, lakes, streams and the ocean. State and county agricultural commissioners need to be more aggressive in law enforcement on these chemicals. Maybe the USEPA and state agencies like the California EPA could create outreach and education programs to public health agencies and agricultural commissions on the great importance of enforcing the pesticide laws. And more should be done with the public and retailers to help them identify what is an illegal pesticide so they don’t knowingly sell or buy it. People don’t know how dangerous these things really are. I remember back in the 1970s when the only thing people cared about was if you sprayed something on a bug or a weed, it killed it and that was all. Someone close to me graduated from agricultural college with a masters degree. He promoted wide spread use of agricultural chemicals–herbacides, pesticides and etc. to Indiana farmers. You could grow crops without doing plowing just spray something on the ground and sow the seeds. The chemicals would not harm people so just reach in the chemical tank with your hands and scoop out any unused portion, hose out the tank and the remains will just go into the ground and go away. That is how he thought that is how he taught farmers he worked with to think. That is the kind of thinking we have to overcome. As for him, he died an early death from a rare form of cancer. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Alan Gregory permalink
    September 25, 2009

    It is downright scarry to see well-meaning suburbanites dump all mannger of chemically-based ferrtilizers on their lawns, and the lawn chemical dude finishes his expensive task by plugging a little sign out by the curb warning passersby not to step on the lawn (which, of course, is absolutely free of even the mention of an dandelion. To make matters worse, and contribute more noise-pollution to the neighborhood racket either th e homeowner himself goes out with a gas-fed mower, weed whacker and leaf blower — or hires a contractor to do the dirty work. One outfit whose trucks I see all the time has the word “thunder” in its corporate name. Gee, I wonder why? Now, on top of the lawn poisons come the invasive species like garlic mustard here in the Northeast. Finally, on top of all this comes the air pollution from all the gasoline-powered machinery (including the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide). The average homeowner, some with more than an acre of turf to care in keeping up with the Joneses, has no idea of his environmental impact. But at least he’s got a closely-cropped lawn. Oh, and then there’s the dude a half-mile from here who patiently puts his lawn clippings in plastic bags (made from petroleum) and puts them out to be collected later by the garbologist. And so it goes. Very very sad. I remember the five summers I spent working my way through college in the early 70s by mowing city park lawns in an Idaho city. I also recall being told by a foreman to kill the grass around sprinkler spigots by pouring gasoline on the turf. Well, at least we’s not doing any more of this stuff today. Or are we?

  5. permalink
    September 28, 2009

    pesticides are poisonous to us all,although now regulated they should be all be treated as poison, that what they was developed for in the first world war

  6. Voayge.Home.Loans.Ca permalink
    September 30, 2009

    Great article. We need more public awareness about the toxins unknowingly being spread by middle America. Unfortunately today to many people are uninformed about these issues. Everyone is focused on “Going Green”. Lets get the word out about how harmful these poisons really are. joeb

  7. Anonymous permalink
    February 13, 2010

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