Pesticides smuggled from Mexico. Photo from Justice Department environmental crimes bulletin

An initiative by federal authorities in San Diego to curb the smuggling of Mexican pesticides into the United States — chemicals which the U.S. Attorney’s Office says both lack EPA approval and are hazardous to human health — has resulted in more than 50 people prosecuted to date for environmental crimes, it was announced Friday.

The Border Pesticide Initiative group was formed in 2019 to combat a rise in injuries to law enforcement officers exposed to pesticides during operations aimed at taking down illegal marijuana cultivation sites.

The chemicals in question require registration numbers showing they received EPA approval and importers must provide documentation in advance to allow for inspection, neither of which the U.S. Attorney’s Office says were provided by the defendants, who allegedly attempted to bring pesticides across the border at ports of entry.

Of the 50 federally charged defendants, 14 have been convicted of felonies and 26 were convicted of misdemeanors, with the defendants collectively ordered to pay more than $60,000 to cover costs for the pesticides’ disposal.

Additionally, eight cases have been filed by the San Diego City Attorney’s Office against people accused of possessing pesticides found at the border.

Nearly 1,000 containers of Mexican pesticides have been seized since the initiative began.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the pesticides most frequently encountered include the active ingredients carborfuran and methamidophos, which are not permitted to be sold or distributed in the U.S.

Carborfuran, which is sold in Mexico under the trade names Furadan and Qufuran, is classified by the EPA as Toxicity Category I, the highest such category based on its lethal potency from absorption by ingestion, contact with skin and inhalation.

Methamidophos, sold in Mexico under the trade names Metaldane 600, Tamaron or Monitor, is considered “one of the most acutely toxic organophosphate pesticides and is similar to a class of chemicals originally manufactured as chemical warfare nerve agents,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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