Environmental Protection Agency enforcement officer Chad Schulze displays one of the banned pesticides that investigators say was listed for sale on Amazon. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times via AP)

Environmental Protection Agency enforcement officer Chad Schulze displays one of the banned pesticides that investigators say was listed for sale on Amazon. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times via AP)

Amazon to pay $1.2 million for illegal pesticide sales

The agreement settles allegations that the internet giant committed nearly 4,000 violations.

By Phuong Le / Associated Press

SEATTLE — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a $1.2 million settlement with Amazon over the sale and distribution of illegal pesticides, one of the largest penalties assessed under federal pesticides laws.

Federal regulators said the agreement settles allegations that the Seattle-based internet giant committed nearly 4,000 violations between 2013 and 2016 for selling and distributing imported pesticide products not licensed for sale in the United States.

The pesticides, including insecticide in the form of chalk and cockroach bait powder, were sold by independent sellers who offered the products through Amazon’s website.

The products were sold through a program in which sellers provided products to Amazon, which stored them at its warehouses and shipped them after they were purchased, Chad Schulze, an EPA pesticide enforcement team lead, said at a news conference in Seattle Thursday.

It’s one of the first enforcement actions related to sales of illegal pesticide in the online marketplace, he added.

In a statement, Amazon said complying with regulations was a “top priority” and that it works quickly to take action when third-party sellers don’t follow the rules.

As part of the agreement filed in administrative court Wednesday, Amazon agreed to develop an online training course to educate sellers about pesticides. The training will be available to the public and online sellers and available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

“This settlement is a step in the right direction to protect the public health and the environment,” said Ed Kowalski, who directs compliance and enforcement for the EPA region covering the Pacific Northwest.

EPA interns uncovered the illegal sales in 2014 while reviewing online marketplaces, identifying unregistered insecticide chalk being sold on Amazon.com.

EPA officials purchased and analyzed those products. It then issued two orders stopping sales, once in mid-2015 for the insecticide chalk and a second time in early 2016 after finding six other unregistered pesticides.

EPA officials said Amazon quickly removed the products and prohibited foreign sellers from selling the pesticides. In October 2016, the company notified people who bought the illegal pesticides and urged them to dispose of them. It also made refunds totaling about $130,000.

Most were purchases by individuals.

The EPA has limited tools to enforce laws against foreign sellers so regulators focus on services in the U.S. that are facilitating the sale of these products, Schulze said.

Illegal pesticides are still widely available for online purchase in the U.S., the EPA said.

“This is a very difficult avenue of pesticide sales to get our hands around and that’s what this action is starting to try to do,” Schulze said.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

Epic Ford on the corner of 52nd Street and Evergreen Way in Everett is closed. The dealership has been in business for more than 50 years. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
After 50 years, Everett’s Epic Ford dealership closes shop

It opened in 1971, when gas guzzling muscle cars like the Ford Mustang still ruled the road.

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Bothell biotech CEO resigns after domestic-violence allegation

Clay Siegall co-founded Seagen, which develops therapies for cancer patients. He’s accused of attacking his wife.

FILE - A sign at a Starbucks location in Havertown, Pa., is seen April 26, 2022. Starbucks says it will pay travel expenses for U.S. employees to access abortion or gender-confirmation procedures if those services aren't available within 100 miles of a worker’s home. The Seattle coffee chain says, Monday, May 16, 2022, the benefit will also be available to dependents of employees enrolled in its health care coverage. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
Starbucks will cover travel for workers seeking abortions

Amazon and Tesla also will provide the benefit. Walmart and Facebook have stayed silent.

A barista pours steamed milk into a red paper cup while making an espresso drink at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Seattle. It's as red as Santa's suit, a poinsettia blossom or a loud Christmas sweater. Yet Starbucks' minimalist new holiday coffee cup has set off complaints that the chain is making war on Christmas. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Interfaith group asks Starbucks to drop vegan milk surcharge

They say the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to keep canceling flights at high level for weeks

Flight cancellations since April will continue. The chaos has been damaging for Seattle’s hometown airline.

FILE - An airplane flies past the Boeing logo on the company's headquarters in Chicago, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001. Boeing Co., a leading defense contractor and one of the world's two dominant manufacturers of airline planes, is expected to move its headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, according to two people familiar with the matter. The decision could be announced as soon as later Thursday, May 5, 2022, according to one of the people. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing expected to move headquarters from Chicago to DC area

The move would put Boeing executives close to their key customer, the Pentagon, and the FAA.

This 3D rendering shows Sila's 6000-foot facility in Moses Lake, to be used to manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials. (Business Wire)
New factory in Moses Lake will bring hundreds of new jobs

The plant will manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials for cars and cellphones.

Dr. David Kirtley at the new Helion headquarters, Antares, in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022  (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Helion Energy: New Everett company has the sun in its eyes

The firm is the winner of a new award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County, called Opportunity Lives Here.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring is this year's winner of the Henry M. Jackson Award given by Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Photographed in Marysville, Washington on April 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Jon Nehring: Longtime Marysville mayor who’s nurtured growth

He’s helped steer the city’s transformation and is winner of the Jackson Award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Monti Ackerman, recipient of the John Fluke Award, is pictured Thursday, April 28, 2022, outside his office in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Monti Ackerman: A passionate volunteer and calculator whiz

The Fortive executive is the winner of this year’s Fluke Award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Rep. Mike Sells, D-38, is the recipient of this year's Henry M. Jackson award. The award recognizes a visionary leader who through partnership, tenacity and a strong commitment to community has created lasting opportunities to improve quality of life and positively impact the regional economy. Photographed in Everett, Washington on April 29, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Rep. Mike Sells: He fought for WSU Everett and worker rights

The retiring legislator is the recipient of the Floyd Award from Economic Alliance Snohomish County.