99 Cents Only Stores penalized by U.S. EPA for sale of unregistered disinfectants

$751,000 penalty for selling possibly harmful products in vulnerable communities

Commerce, Calif. – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with 99 Cents Only Stores LLC for distributing and selling unregistered disinfectants from its stores located in historically marginalized and overburdened communities throughout Arizona, California, and Nevada. Under the settlement, 99 Cents Only Stores will pay a $751,055 penalty.

This action underscores EPA’s commitment to using its enforcement tools to advance environmental justice.

Bref Densicloro

Between October 2020 and June 2021, 99 Cents Only Stores sold Bref Densicloro, a Spanish-language multi-use household cleaner and disinfectant, to customers located in historically underserved Latinx communities.

Bref Densicloro

Though Bref Densicloro contained the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite and made numerous disinfectant claims, it was not registered as required under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

In addition, inspectors from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) identified two other products, Momentum Brands Disinfectant Wipes and Alchemy Living Multi Surface Cleaner, that were being offered for sale from 99 Cents Only’s Murrieta, Calif. store that also made pesticidal claims but were unregistered under FIFRA.

“By taking action against companies selling disinfectants that are not effective, do not meet our safety standards, or make false claims, EPA is protecting the public as we all continue to face COVID-19 challenges,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Companies that sell illegal disinfectants will face significant fines.”

Routinely inspect stores

“California takes these types of violations seriously, especially in communities that historically have been disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards,” said DPR Director Julie Henderson. “Selling unregistered pesticides – including disinfectants — is both unlawful and potentially dangerous. Our scientists routinely inspect stores throughout the state for illegal pesticides like these and the department also works closely with the EPA to ensure violators are punished.”

Public health claims for pesticide products, including disinfectants, can only be made following proper testing and registration with the EPA. The agency will not register a pesticide until it has been determined the product will not pose an unreasonable risk to human health when used according to the label directions. Unregistered products can be harmful to human health, cause adverse effects, and may not be effective against the spread of germs.

FIFRA registration and labeling requirements protect human health and the environment by ensuring disinfectants in the marketplace are tested in accordance with specific guidelines and can be safely used for their intended purposes. The process of registering a disinfectant is a scientific, legal, and administrative procedure through which EPA examines the ingredients of the disinfectant; the amount, frequency, and timing of its use; and storage and disposal practices. The agency evaluates registration applications to assess a wide variety of potential health and environmental effects associated with use of the product.

For the most up-to-date list of EPA-registered disinfectant products.

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SourceU.S. EPA