A Pesticide by any other name

North Face shoesThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on what retailers can claim their products can do, especially if they supposedly do something that’s healthy.

They’ve filed suit against San Leandro, California  based VF Corporation for the alleged sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides through their outdoor gear and apparal retail company, The North Face.

The issue centers around over 70 styles of footwear that have an AgION silver treated footbed. The North Face sold these with claims that the footwear would prevent disease-causing bacteria. Their claims included:

•    AgION antimicrobial silver agent inhibits  growth of disease-causing bacteria
•    Prevents bacterial and fungal growth
•    Continuous release of antimicrobial  agents

Making these claims, says the EPA, is a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and are unsubstantiated public health claims regarding unregistered products, and their ability to control germs and pathogens.

“The EPA takes very seriously its responsibility to enforce against companies that sell products with unsubstantiated antimicrobial properties,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.  “Unverified public health claims can lead people to believe they are protected from disease-causing organisms when, in fact, they may not be.”

The North Face has since ceased making these claims, removing them from their website, and have revised their product packaging.

The EPA considers products that kill or repel bacteria or germs to be pesticides which then must be registered with the EPA prior to distribution or sale.  Until a pesticide has been tested to show that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the directions, they won’t register it. Registered products have an EPA registration number printed on product labels.

The North Face’s parent company now faces nearly $1million in federal fines for making these unsubstantiated claims.