"By misleading consumers about the potential dangers associated with the use of their products, Dow's ads may have endangered human health and the environment by encouraging people to use their products without proper care," New York Attorney General Spitzer said Monday.
Spitzer said the penalty involving the popular Dursban and other pesticides is the largest penalty in the nation's history for this type of case.
Dow AgroSciences agreed to the $2 million penalty, but admitted no illegal or erroneous advertising, said spokesman Garry Hamlin. He said the firm settled to avoid a costly court case.
Spitzer had alleged that Dow AgroSciences violated a 1994 agreement between the company and the state that prohibited advertisements touting the safety of its pesticide products.
"The 1994 agreement restricted our ability to support and defend our products," said Guy A. Relford, the company's head of litigation, "even if our statements were true."
For instance, Relford said, Spitzer interpreted the old agreement as prohibiting telling people that the federal Environmental Protection Agency had registered one of Dow's products as a reduced risk pesticide.
State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden in Manhattan issued the consent order that requires the firm to pay the $2 million penalty, prohibits it from making safety claims about its pesticides, and requires it to start a compliance program. That program will include an internal review of all ads and future ads by Dow in New York State and removal of any safety claims. The company will also have to provide training to comply with advertising restrictions.
Spitzer investigated Dow ads from 1995 to this year.
Among the advertised claims cited by Spitzer was: "No significant adverse health effects will likely result from exposures to Dursban even at levels substantially above those expected to occur when applied at label rates."
"Excellent studies conducted by independent scientists have clearly shown that chlorpyrifos, the active ingredient in Dursban, is toxic to the human brain and nervous system and is especially dangerous to the developing brain of infants," said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Department of Community and Preventative Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.