Late last week, the EPA announced that online retailer Amazon.com Inc will pay $1.2 million for violating American pesticide regulations.
Reuters reports that the digital business committed nearly 4,000 violations of the law, allowing illegal pesticides or products containing illegal pesticides to be sold across its domain. As part of the settlement, Amazon agreed to monitor agricultural chemical sales on its website, as part of a concentrated effort to “significantly reduce the number of illegal pesticides available through the online marketplace.”
Most of the violations stemmed from the sale and distribution of imported pesticide and insecticide products which aren’t licensed for sale in the United States.
An Environmental Protection Agency investigation detected the illicit substances on Amazon in 2014, initially identifying an unlicensed ‘insecticide chalk.’ Officials purchased and analyzed the products, according to KSTP News, finding another half-dozen illegal pesticides listed over the course of the next two years.
Regional EPA enforcement director Ed Kowalski said the company was intentionally ‘warehousing, packaging, shipping and profiting off the products.’
“They have a responsibility whether to determine whether the products that they’re selling are pesticides, and if so, whether they’re illegal pesticides,” he said.
To Amazon’s credit, the company quickly took action to amend its oversights. Reuters writes that banned products were quickly removed from listings. Pesticide sales have since been limited to domestic retailers while substance monitoring has been notched up.
Customers who’d purchased potentially hazardous pesticides between 2013 and 2016 were asked to contact Amazon if they had any safety concerns. Along with urging buyers to throw out noncompliant products, Amazon offered refunds totaling $130,000.
“Regulatory compliance is a top priority at Amazon. Third-party sellers are required to comply with all relevant laws and regulations when listing items for sale on Amazon,” said the company in a statement.
As part of the agreement filed last Wednesday, KSTP reports that the company has taken steps to ensure the same scandal doesn’t erupt again. Amazon plans to develop an online training course with the aim to educate sellers about pesticides and restrictions on their sale to an American market.
The training, says KSTP, will be made freely available in English, Spanish and Chinese, both to retailers and the public.
“This settlement is a step in the right direction to protect the public health and the environment,” said Kowalski, whose regional purview encompasses Seattle.
Like other bureaucratic enforcement agencies, the EPA doesn’t have a wide-ranging arsenal to tackle foreign companies shipping unapproved pesticides into the United States. The only recourse for the agency is ensuring compliance with American retailers, often by way of fines and judicial action.
“This is a very difficult avenue of pesticide sales to get our hands around and that’s what this action is starting to try to do,” said EPA pesticide enforcement leader Chad Schulze.