NY State to sue Dow chemical subsidiary

New York State Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer has announced plans to sue Dow AgroSciences for violating an agreement against false advertising of its products.

The action against Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, 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 to stop making claims that the product was ‘safe.’ Spitzer alleges that Dow AgroSciences continued to make that claim despite the fact that the product contains toxic substances. Such safety claims are also 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 centres 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 US 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 is said to have 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.’

Dow AgroSciences has described Spitzer’s pending lawsuit as ‘ meritless’ and that the allegations against Dow AgroSciences ‘grossly misrepresent the truth.’

‘It is irresponsible for the Attorney General to imply that labelled uses of Dursban insecticide have resulted in injuries to humans. The truth is that there is not a shred of credible scientific evidence supporting these allegations,’ said Dow Agrosciences in a statement.