Enforcement and Inspection

Recent Enforcement Demonstrates EPA Prioritization of FIFRA Compliance

On October 15, 2020, the EPA announced a settlement with Electrolux Home Products Inc. in the amount of $6,991,400 to resolve alleged violations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

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Electrolux, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, was charged with importing approximately 420,000 air conditioners and dehumidifiers containing filters treated with an unregistered nanosilver, “which were labeled and marketed with pesticidal claims,” including “antibacterial filter,” and “helps eliminate bacteria in the air that can make breathing difficult,” according to the EPA.

The EPA alleged that Electrolux “imported unregistered pesticides in violation of section 12(a)(1)(A) of FIFRA and failed to file the required Notice of Arrival in violation of section 12(a)(2)(N) of FIFRA.”

The EPA said Electrolux imported these products 141 different times between January 11 and May 12, 2020, across 6 different EPA regions at 11 different entry ports, including Los Angeles/Long Beach, California; San Francisco, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; Worcester, Massachusetts; Wilmington, North Carolina; New York/Newark, New Jersey; Columbus, Ohio; and Norfolk, Virginia.

FIFRA requires all pesticide products to be registered with the EPA before distribution or sale within the United States.

“FIFRA also requires importers to submit a Notice of Arrival (NOA) to EPA prior to the arrival of pesticide products,” according to Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, a law firm founded in Cincinnati, Ohio. “EPA determined that Electrolux failed to submit the required NOA and that the air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and the nanosilver pesticide used to treat the filters were all unregistered pesticides. EPA, therefore, concluded that Electrolux’s importation and intended sale of the dehumidifiers and air conditioners violated FIFRA. As a result, EPA worked closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to detain approximately 420,000 of Electrolux’s products and prevent them from entering U.S. commerce.”

Because Electrolux failed to file NOAs on the 141 shipments, it violated FIFRA.

In addition to the hefty fine, before the release of the detained products, Electrolux was required to agree to remove the unregistered filters treated with nanosilver and to remove any advertising claims related to petrocide benefits from all its products—those detained and those already in the United States.

“Electrolux’s consent agreement serves as a notice to the regulated community that FIFRA compliance is one of EPA’s top enforcement priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Taft Law Firm. “EPA continues to pursue severe civil and criminal penalties to ensure all pesticide products on the market comply with FIFRA’s strict requirements.”

The EPA press release confirms Taft’s assessment.

“The sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides may pose risks to human health and the environment,” according to the EPA. “If EPA has not reviewed reliable data about the how the pesticide product works and what kinds of exposures may impact the user, then the risk to the consumer and the environment is unknown and use of the product is potentially unsafe. Additionally, consumers may be misled to believe a pesticide product provides public health benefits that it may not.

“Before EPA can register a pesticide, the agency must determine that no unreasonable adverse effects on human health and the environment will occur when the pesticide product is used according to its label directions,” continues the EPA. “The only nanosilver pesticides that are currently registered with the EPA are approved solely for incorporation into textiles to protect those articles themselves from antimicrobial pests such as mold and bacteria that can cause deterioration, discoloration or odors. No nanosilver pesticide is registered with the EPA for use in home appliances to disinfect the ambient air or protect the health of the user.”

The Electrolux website contains no information regarding the settlement. The EPA states, as of the settlement date, that Electrolux had brought 500,000 dehumidifiers and air conditioners back into compliance.

Visit the EPA FIFRA website for more information about the Act’s regulations.