Kathy Brunetti, Agriculture Program Supervisor
California Department of Pesticide Regulation
830 KStreet, Sacramento, California, USA 95814
voice (916) 324-4100, FAX (916) 324-4088, email@example.com
Our Web site: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov
<italic><fontfamily><param>Arial</param>November 12, 1998
Department of Pesticide Regulation:
Veda Federighi/Glenn Brank
Department of Health Services:
Ken August, 916/657-3064
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
Paula Bruin, 415/744-1587
</fontfamily></italic><fontfamily><param>Arial</param>Warning Issued on
Danger to Children
SACRAMENTO -- Cal/EPA's Department of Pesticide Regulation and the
California Department of Health Services today warned consumers against
using illegal insecticides manufactured to resemble blackboard chalk.
"These products are deceptively dangerous. Children could easily
mistake them for common household chalk," said State Health Officer
James Stratton, M.D., M.P.H., "Consumers should avoid them."
"Obviously, making an insecticide look like a toy is dangerous--as
well as illegal," said DPR Chief Deputy Director Jean-Mari Peltier.
"We would have the same problem if they made it look like a lollipop,
or packaged it in a soft drink bottle."
The products -- sold under various trade names including
<italic>Pretty Baby Chalk, Chinese Chalk</italic>, and
<italic>Miraculous Insecticide Chalk</italic> -- are hazardous for two
reasons. First, they have been mistaken for common household chalk and
eaten by children, causing several illnesses. Second, because the
products are unregistered, ingredients and packaging are unregulated.
These products are typically manufactured in China and illegally
imported. The packages instruct consumers to draw chalk lines on the
floor to kill insects that crawl over the pesticide.
Taking action against one of the distributors, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency today issued an order to Pretty Baby Co., in Pomona,
Calif., to "stop selling an unregistered product that is harmful to
public health." Pretty Baby actively markets its unregistered product
to consumers and schools on the Internet and in newspaper
"Products like this can be very dangerous," said Peltier. "The
manufacturer can -- and does--change the formula from one batch to the
next. You have no way of knowing if the ingredients are harmless to
humans, or a deadly poison."
For instance, three samples of a product labeled "Miraculous
Insecticide Chalk" were analyzed by DPR last month. Two contained the
insecticide deltamethrin; the third contained the insecticide
Deltamethrin and cypermethrin are synthetic pyrethroids, a class of
insecticides that act on the nervous system. Overexposure to them can
produce serious health effects, including vomiting, stomach pains,
convulsions, tremors, coma, and death due to respiratory failure.
Serious allergic reactions are also possible.
In addition, analyses of colorful boxes typically used for these
products has found high levels of lead and other heavy metals in the
packaging. This can be a problem if children place a box in their
mouths or handle the boxes and transfer the metal residue to their
Over the past decade, DPR and DHS have received reports of isolated
illnesses in children linked to ingestion or handling of the chalk.
The most serious occurred in 1994, when a San Diego child was
hospitalized after eating insecticidal chalk. Most recently, a Visalia
toddler fell ill several weeks ago after eating a product labeled
"Miraculous Insecticide Chalk."
A small display ad for "Pretty Baby Chinese Chalk" ran in the October
25 edition of the Los Angeles Times, claiming the product was "the safe
way to exterminate your home." The ad referred readers to a Web site
that asserts the product is "harmless" and "will not produce
pollution," while claiming it will kill cockroaches, ants, lice, and
fleas that crawl across a chalk trail drawn on the floor. The Web site
targets parents, soliciting children's photographs for contests.
"This is a problem we have dealt with periodically over the past
decade," said DPR's Peltier. "It is difficult to stop the sale of
products marketed at so many flea markets, swap meets, and small retail
outlets. With U.S. EPA as our partner, we can crack down on the
DPR personnel periodically spot-check retail stores, flea markets and
swap meets to determine if unregistered products are offered for sale.
Sellers may be fined up to $5,000 per violation for selling an
"If anyone knows where such products are being sold, please call DPR's
Enforcement Branch, at (916) 445-3920, or the local county agricultural
commissioner," Peltier said. The commissioners are DPR's pesticide
enforcement agents in the field. [Note: outside of California, contact
your local pestcidie regulatory agency]
Consumers who have purchased these illegal products should dispose of
them at their local household hazardous waste facilities.
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