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Pesticide Spray at Lunch Sparks Complaint

Ask pesticide applicators for the MSDS and labels for the toxic crap they are spraying

Sometimes it seems difficult to go out of the house without running into an environmental abuse.

Yesterday afternoon, while eating lunch at my local deli, I was sprayed by a pesticide applicator! (not direct contact, but within 10 feet).

The good news is that the DEP Hotline and Pesticide Program Enforcement programs worked well.  Here’s the story.

While sitting at the corner table eating my lunch, an Ehrlich pesticide applicator approached while spraying the floor perimeter.

As he crossed the doorway, I made hostile eye contact, so he avoided the corner I was in. But he moved on and circled back through an adjacent aisle and began spraying about 10 feet behind me.

I then trashed my lunch and asked him what pesticide he was spraying, whether he was spraying it consistent with the label, and for a MSDS for it. 

He gave me a BS story about a patented “micro-encapsulation” safety process that made human exposure impossible because only insects could puncture the capsule.

I warned him to stop lying to me and followed him out to his truck to demand that he provide the paperwork (i.e. the label and MSDS).

He fumbled around while calling his boss to ask for the MSDS.  He finally found a label, but then proceeded to try to mislead me about what it said.

When I disagreed and read it myself, I noted that it expressly prohibited what he was doing. The applicable portions of the label read:

Directions for Use

It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.

Application within Food Serving Areas (facilities where fooods are served, such as dining rooms)

… Do not apply when [food] facility is in operation or when foods are exposed. Food must be covered or removed in area being treated.

Let Treated Surfaces Dry Before Allowing Humans And Pets To Contact Surfaces 

Do not apply this product in any room being used as living, eating, sleeping, or recovery area.

Do not apply to institutions … in the immediate area where occupants are present. 

The insecticide he was spraying is “demandEZ” (EPA Registration No. 100-1232).  Here is the MSDS.The MSDS warns: 

 Prevent eating, drinking, tobacco use, and cosmetic application in areas where there is a potential for exposure to the material.

So after reading the label and advising the applicator of his violations of federal law, NJ DEP regulations, and his DEP pesticide applicators license, I called the Ehrlich Flemington Office to speak with the manager. I then called the DEP Hotline and the Hunterdon County Health Department and filed complaints.

A few hours later, I got a series of return calls.

The DEP Pesticide enforcement office called to get details. They were thorough and responsive and will likely take some form of enforcement action.

I then got a call from the Ehrlich Flemington office manager. He immediately admitted the mistake, apologized for it, pledged it would not happen again, and stated that he would conduct additional training with this applicator and all other applicators in his office. Very professional response.

I then got a call from NJ State Police, who had been called by DEP. They took my statement and told me they had gone to the scene to interview the Deli staff. 

So, while the the risks were minor, I was pleased to see that both DEP and Ehrlich responded appropriately. We’ll report back on DEP and Hunterdon Co. enforcement response.

Moral of the story: ask pesticide applicators for the MSDS and labels for the toxic crap they are spraying! Verify yourself that they are doing it consistent with the label.

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