Why Pesticide Enforcement Inspections Matter

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Protecting Californians is at the heart of the program

Environmental Scientist Korena Goodell performing a compliance inspection at a store in Alturas, California.

SACRAMENTO – Tucked at the far northeast corner of the state, in the high desert of Modoc County, there's no shortcut to the town of Alturas – population roughly 2,800.

Although it is remote, it is not too remote for Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) enforcement staff, who inspect stores throughout California in search of illegal pesticides being sold. Inspections are also conducted at distribution centers, agricultural dealers, and online establishments.

Environmental Scientist Korena Goodell entering a store in Alturas, California to perform a compliance inspection

Last year, inspectors found more than 200 illegal products, statewide.

Korena Goodell, a DPR environmental scientist and enforcement inspector, said the department is having success in educating store owners and managers about California's pesticide regulations.

"I do believe we're making a difference, one retail store at a time."

Inspectors look for anything that makes a 'pesticidal' claim – products that claim to kill or deter pests, be they mosquitoes, mold, rats or bacteria. These include the obvious – like weed and bug killers, and mosquito repellants – as well as things you may not have considered – like toilet bowl disinfectants, 'antimicrobial' socks, mosquito repelling hats, and mold-killing shower curtains. By law, these products must all be registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DPR if they are sold in California.

Environmental Scientist Korena Goodell performing a compliance inspection at a store in Alturas, California.

Ken Everett, assistant director of DPR's Pesticide Programs Division, said registration is important because it protects consumers and the environment.

"Does it have what it says it has in it? Does it work? Are there proper safety precautions on the label?"

Most often, inspectors compare the labels of products on the shelves to a DPR database to ensure they're registered. Inspectors also often buy products off the shelf for testing at a state lab. The tests ensure what's in the container matches up with what's claimed on the label.

Environmental Scientist Korena Goodell performing a compliance inspection at a store in Alturas, California.

Why make such a huge effort?

Unregistered "pesticides" can be a danger to consumers. To be registered, a product is tested to verify that it works, and that it doesn't harm people or the environment when used according to the instructions. USEPA and DPR verify these studies. In contrast, unregistered products have undergone no formal evaluations and unsuspecting consumers could be duped, or, worse, injured or killed.

Inspections also protect merchants, who could unwittingly sell an illegal product or have to compete with stores that don't play by the rules.

It's unrealistic to regularly test products at every store in every county in the state, so compliance inspection locations are, for the most part, picked at random. Inspections occur in a range of settings – including big box, grocery, drug, hardware and sporting goods stores. Geographically, inspectors lean toward communities that haven't been inspected in a while and sometimes go places you may not even think about, like convenience or sporting goods stores.

Two recent inspections included discount and hardware stores in Alturas, and a nursery and hardware/sporting-goods store in Truckee. These were chosen, in part, because they are near state lines. Borders areas are a concern because products can easily be brought in from other states or Mexico.

More on DPR's Enforcement Branch
More on compliance violation settlements
To report a suspected illegal pesticide, email Product Compliance

For content questions, contact:
Craig Cassidy
Public Information Officer I
DPR Office of Communications
1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015
Sacramento, CA 95812-4015
Phone: (916) 445-5815
E-mail: Craig.Cassidy@cdpr.ca.gov