Spitzer Warns New Yorkers About Dangers Of Illegal Pesticides

Attorney General Spitzer today warned consumers to avoid contact with several poisonous pesticides sold illegally in many parts of the City. Since August 2002, the Attorney General's Office has arrested nine street merchants and business owners for the sale of Tres Pasitos, Tempo and Miraculous Insecticide Chalk or "Chinese Chalk." Tres Pasitos and Chinese Chalk are not registered with the federal or state government, as required by law, and cannot be legally sold anywhere in the United States. Tempo is registered, however, due to its toxicity, New York State law requires that it only be sold to certified pesticide applicators.

Tempo and Tres Pasitos are sold in predominately Hispanic communities in New York, particularly in the South Bronx and Washington Heights. Chinese Chalk is typically sold in Asian communities throughout New York, with much of it sold in Manhattan's Chinatown. All three illegal pesticides are widely available and are commonly known to area residents who may be unaware of the grave dangers associated with exposure to them. Statistics concerning actual sales are largely unavailable.

"Touting the pesticides as highly effective and safe, and selling them without the labels required by law, the street dealers and merchants endanger the health of the buyers and those exposed when the pesticides are used," said Spitzer. "New Yorkers must take every precaution to avoid contact with these dangerous poisons, and should contact my office to report illegal sales."

Approximately 12 cases of poisoning by Tres Pasitos are reported to the New York City Poison Control Center every year. The complaint rate has increased moderately since the first poisonings were reported in the early 1990's. Studies, articles, and government public awareness campaigns for all three pesticides began in 1997.

The most recent arrest ocurred on October 21, 2003 in the Bronx and involved the sale of one packet of Tempo for $20.00 and two packets of Tres Pasitos for $10.00. Spitzer said investigations into illegal pesticide sales will continue.

The Harlem Regional Office, Environmental Protection Bureau, Criminal Prosecutions and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation collaborated to investigate and prosecute individuals and businesses that engage in selling black market pesticides. The cases are being coordinated by Assistant Attorney in Charge of the Harlem Regional Office Guy Mitchell and Assistant Attorney General Roberto Lebron.

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