The EPA Sues The North Face

I got an email today from the EPA and I think it is just funny. Apparently the EPA is suing the parent company of clothing company “The North Face”. I have done quite a bit of outdoor stuff including rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking and the like and I think that most of the “Outdoor clothing” stuff that is out there is just plain silly. I particularly thought it was strange, useless, and tasteless marketing when outdoor clothing companies started selling clothes that claimed to be UV resistant so that you don’t get sunburned, insect repellent, and fungus resistant so that it doesn’t start to stink after a few days of use. It turns out that aside from my opinion, these claims have legal implications and specifically are a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The specific problem that the EPA appears to have is when The North Face sells products with “Unsubstantiated antimicrobial properties”. I can understand this, but the antimicrobial properties are focused on stink and not necessarily on people’s health. I like that The North Face is getting challenged for this crazy marketing strategy, but I would prefer that the EPA get back to business on real issues because they definitely have bigger fish to fry.

‘The North Face’ Clothing Parent Company Facing Nearly $1M in Federal Fines Following Unsubstantiated Product Claims
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed suit against San Leandro based VF Corporation for the alleged sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides through their retail company, The North Face.
The EPA maintains that The North Face made unsubstantiated public health claims regarding unregistered products, and their ability to control germs and pathogens — a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Products discovered online and evidence found at The North Face retail store in San Francisco led the Agency to issue a complaint against the VF Corporation.
“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.”
At issue were more than 70 styles of footwear that incorporated an AgION silver treated footbed. The company sold the products making unsubstantiated claims that the footwear would prevent disease-causing bacteria. Specifically, The North Face made the following public health claims about the footwear on-line and on product packaging:
• “AgION antimicrobial silver agent inhibits the growth of disease-causing bacteria”
• “Prevents bacterial and fungal growth”
• Continuous release of antimicrobial agents
After being contacted by EPA, The North Face stopped making claims that their footwear protects against germs, removed claims from their website, and revised their product packaging.
Products that kill or repel bacteria or germs are considered pesticides, and must be registered with the EPA prior to distribution or sale. The Agency will not register a pesticide until it has been tested to show that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the directions. Consumers should be careful to look for the EPA registration number printed on product labels, and to follow the directions for proper use.
For more information please visit: http://www.epa.gov/PR_Notices/pr2000-1.pdf

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