Illegal Pesticides: Closer Than You Think

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.