North Attleboro Pesticide Company to Change Advertising Practices After Deceptive Marketing Allegations
Follows Recent Enforcement Action against Bayer CropScience for Deceptive Marketing of Neonicotinoid-Containing Pesticide Products
BOSTON – A North Attleboro-based pesticide company and its franchisees in Wilmington, Hanover, and Westfield have agreed to change their advertising practices and pay penalties to the state to resolve allegations that they misrepresented the potential impact of their pesticide spraying practices on the environment and public health, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“Homeowners should have the facts they need to make informed decisions about the potential risks to the environment and public health associated with spraying pesticides in their yards,” said AG Healey. “Through this enforcement action, these companies will be required to take measures to protect consumers and accurately portray the potential risks of their pesticide spraying services.”
Today’s announcement follows AG Healey’s recent first-of-its-kind enforcement action against Bayer CropScience, in which the agrochemical company agreed to change its advertising practices for its neonicotinoid containing pesticides to resolve allegations that the company misled and deceived consumers about the risks its pesticides pose to bees and the environment.
An assurance of discontinuance was filed on Dec.15 in Suffolk Superior Court against Mosquito Shield LLC and its franchises – Rowecor, Inc., operating as Mosquito Shield of the South Shore in Hanover, Lester Oakley LLC, operating as Mosquito Shield of Western Massachusetts in Westfield, and Barrier Corp., operating as Mosquito Shield of the North Shore in Wilmington.
The assurance requires that the companies to refrain from using the terms “pet friendly,” “kid friendly,” and “environmentally friendly” in its advertising. Mosquito Shield and its associated companies apply pesticides of the chemical class known as pyrethroids with backpack sprayers in outdoor common use areas such as yards, pools, decks, and patios to reduce the number of mosquitos in the target areas.
Studies show that there are potentially serious neurological and oncological risks associated with the insecticide that is used in these backyard sprayers, despite the widespread assumption that it is relatively safe. These chemicals are toxic by design, and their application must be carefully controlled.
The repeated broadcast spraying of pesticides in residential backyards in an attempt to limit the number of mosquitos is contrary to the safer methods of pest control known as Integrated Pest Management, which stresses prudence and minimizing chemical use. Integrated Pest Management practices include closely monitoring the need for pest control, focusing on prevention (for instance by eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites by emptying water from containers such as garbage cans, flower pots, bird baths, and discarded auto tires), and cautiously using the lowest risk pesticides capable of addressing the problem.
After reviewing Mosquito Shield’s marketing materials, including brochures, print and internet advertisements, and customer contracts, the AG’s Office concluded that the marketing materials may have directly or by implication misrepresented the safety of the companies’ mosquito spraying practices. For example, one of the ads inaccurately claimed that the Mosquito Shield Control System used pesticide chemicals that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when the EPA does not issue approvals for chemical pesticides and cautions companies not to characterize any pesticide product as EPA-approved.
Under the terms of the settlement reached with the AG’s Office, the companies have agreed to pay the state $10,000 to resolve the matter. If a Mosquito Shield franchisee fails to comply with the requirements of the settlement, Mosquito Shield LLC, the franchisor, must terminate the franchise agreement.
The settlement also requires the companies take steps to minimize possible health risks associated with their products, including providing consumers with written notification advising them about the pesticides used on their property so they can make informed decisions about how to control pests on their property. The companies have also agreed to inform consumers that children and pets should not be present when the pesticides are being applied.
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This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg, of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.