Amazon settles another pesticide case with Washington.
In 2018, Amazon reached a $1.2 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve claims regarding its failure to oversee the sale of restricted pesticides on its site. At the time, the EPA said Amazon committed “nearly 4,000 violations” of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act “by failing to regulate” third-party sales of imported pesticide products not licensed for sale in the United States. Now, the popular online marketplace has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office over the same issue.
“This agreement will dramatically reduce the online sale of illegal pesticides, which pose serious threats to public health in communities across America,” EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick said at the time.
The recent lawsuit brought by the state claimed the company allowed industrial grade pesticides to be sold illegally. In some cases, the products Amazon sold are not available for sale elsewhere because they are regulated and not allow to be distributed in the state. Under Washington’s law, sellers have to be issued licenses to sell these pesticides and record information about the buyers at the time of sale in order to limit potential misuse. Some of the pesticides at issue can lead to neurological damage, contaminate groundwater and cause harm species living in the water.
“Amazon facilitated thousands of sales involving the high-strength pesticides between 2013 and 2020, when the company suspended all restricted pesticide sales,” Washington’s lawsuit alleged, stating further that “Amazon failed to inform customers that the agricultural and industrial-use pesticides were different from broadly available products, creating an impression that anyone could buy and use them, the state contended.”
Chad Schulze, EPA Region 10 Pesticide Enforcement Team Lead, said, “A kid could get it in the mail, open it up, and have a large exposure. The risk is very real.”
In resolving Washington’s suit, an Amazon spokesperson said, “There are no allegations of customer or environmental harm related to these pesticides. Amazon acted promptly upon first contact by the Attorney General’s Office about this issue, and we will continue to partner with the Attorney General’s Office and other relevant agencies to remain in compliance.”
Ferguson said in response to the state’s settlement, “Amazon sold these regulated pesticides on its site without a license, and without verifying the licenses of Restricted Use Pesticide purchasers, or collecting other legally required information, like the intended use of the pesticide. Because of Amazon’s actions, there is no record of how or where the dangerous pesticides were used. Amazon is a powerful corporation, but it’s not above the law.”
As part of the 2018 EPA settlement, Amazon indicated it would develop an online training course regarding pesticide regulations and policies. Now, as part of the latest settlement, it will be required to obtain a license should it continue to sell the pesticides at issue and must make reforms to the marketplace designed to prohibit unlawful pesticide sales.
Amazon said it “will continue to partner with the Attorney General’s Office and other relevant agencies to remain in compliance going forward,” although the company did not admit to any wrongdoing.