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Post date: April 2 2003

State To Sue Dow Chemical Subsidiary Over Misleading Ads

Attorney General Spitzer today announced plans to sue one of the nation's leading pesticide manufacturers for violating an agreement against false advertising of its products.

The action against Dow AgroSciences LLC, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co., alleges repeated violations of its 1994 agreement governing the advertising of a widely used pesticide marketed as Dursban.

As part of the 1994 agreement, the company was supposed to stop making claims that the product was "safe." Instead, the company has continued to make that claim despite the fact that the product contains highly toxic substances, and despite the fact that such safety claims are expressly prohibited by state and federal law.

"Consumers must not be lulled into a false sense of security by misleading safety claims," Spitzer said. "They should be urged to use pesticides only with the utmost caution."

The lawsuit against Dow AgroSciences, which will be filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks a court order directing the company to cease its deceptive advertising. The lawsuit also seeks substantial monetary penalties for the company's violations of its agreement with the state.

The lawsuit centers on Dursban, which contains chlorpyrifos, a synthetic compound that has been linked to severe health problems in humans including nerve damage, asthma and birth defects.

The Environmental Protection Agency, specifically citing health risks to children, took action in 2000 to prohibit most household uses of chlorpyrifos.

An investigation in the early 1990s by the Attorney General's Office found that Dow engaged in false and misleading advertising that violated both state and federal laws. In exchange for not paying fines for its illegal advertising claims, Dow signed an agreement with the state in 1994, in which it pledged to reform its advertising and marketing practices.

However, since the 1994 agreement, Dow AgroSciences has continued to advertise the safety of Dursban products, claiming they have no "long term (health) effects," and that the pesticide exhibited "no evidence of significant risk to the environment."

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Philip Bein and Lemuel Srolovic and Chief Scientist Michael Surgan Ph.D., of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau.

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