Dursban Lawsuit brought by NY AG
On December 12, 2003 it was announced that a Dow subsidiary, Dow AgroSciences, LLC, would pay a $2 million penalty to the state of New York for intentionally advertising false safety claims on its pesticides between 1995 and 2003. The hefty fine marked the highest ever in a pesticide case. After the victory, New York State’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer remarked, “Pesticides are toxic substances that should be used with great caution. By misleading consumers about the potential dangers associated with the use of their products, Dow’s ads may have endangered human health and the environment by encouraging people to use their products without proper care.”
The highly volatile chemical most commonly used in Dow’s pesticides is known as Dursban (Chlorpyrifos). “Dursban was one of the most highly toxic active ingredients used in home pesticides,” Edward Groth III, PhD, a senior scientist with the Consumers Union, said. “Dow’s exaggerated safety claims for this very toxic chemical, cited in the Attorney General’s lawsuit, were simply outrageous.”
What is more, the New York settlement isn’t the first time Dow has been penalized for withholding toxicity information. In 1995, the company was fined $732,000 for not sending its 249 incident reports on Dursban poisoning to the EPA.
One year prior, Dow entered into an agreement with the State of New York to discontinue the safety advertising on its pesticide products. This agreement was prompted by an investigation in the early 1990s that found Dow in violation of several state and federal laws for false and misleading advertising. In 1994, the fines were dropped in exchange for a formal agreement with the state in which Dow agreed to alter its marketing operations.
Unfortunately, the resolution did little to change Dow’s activities. As recently as March 2003, consumers visiting Dow’s website could read: “Consumer exposure from labeled use of chlorpyrifos products provides wide margins of safety for both adults and children.”
In addition to the $2 million penalty assessed last December, Judge Joan Madden has prohibited Dow from making safety claims about its pesticide products and required that the chemical manufacturer implement a compliance program to monitor future advertising activities.