Company Fined for Claiming Ball-Point Pen Kills Germs

EPA fined company for selling unregistered pesticides and making unproven claims about their effectiveness.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has settled an enforcement action with Micro Pen of U.S.A. Inc., Buena Park, Calif., for selling unregistered pesticides and making unproven claims about their effectiveness. In violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, Micro Pen will pay a penalty of $35,000.

"Unregistered means unknown: we don't know what's in it and we don't know what it will do to people," said Pam Cooper, chief of the Pesticide Program at the EPA's regional office. "EPA's responsibility is to make sure that products containing pesticides have been properly evaluated and provide the information consumers need to use them safely."

Micro Pen was cited for selling an unregistered ball point pen, Micro Cleen-Ball pen, which the company claimed contains an antibacterial agent in the pen body. The label said that the pen would reduce the chance of bacterial infections such as food poisoning; skin, eye, and ear infections; bronchitis; and urinary tract infections. It also claimed it would contribute to healthier environments in day care centers, hospitals, laboratories and military facilities.

EPA has no evidence that products which incorporate pesticides prevent the spread of germs and bacteria in humans.

Cooper said EPA is especially concerned about such unverified public health claims because they may encourage people to skip proper hygiene. She cautioned that consumers shouldn't rely on antibacterial claims as a substitute for common-sense hygienic practices, such as washing hands frequently.

Manufacturers who claim their product prevents, destroys or repels any pest must register that product as a pesticide with EPA. The agency does not register a pesticide until it is tested to show that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the directions.

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