Tags: Feds | Lean | Bioterror | Fear | Profiteers

Feds Lean on Bioterror Fear Profiteers

Thursday, 03 January 2002 12:00 AM

So far the Internet canvas has turned up more than 200 sites marketing dubious protection devices as air filters, gas masks, protective clothing and ultraviolet light mechanisms claiming to kill anthrax bacteria.

A total of 121 e-mail letter warnings were sent out, according to a FTC press statement released Wednesday.

"This recent round of e-mails demonstrates our continuing concern about questionable claims for bioterrorism protection products,” said FTC Consumer Protection Bureau Director J. Howard Beales.

"We, along with other participants in the surf, are prepared to follow up with legal actions if the recipients of these and our earlier letters do not come into compliance.”

The FTC advisories warned marketers that stringent standards and rigorous tests are required before products can be touted as truly capable of deterring biological and chemical threats.

"There’s no such thing as a universal gas mask that will filter everything,’’ Beales cited as an example.

Last month New York state charged four men who sold on the Internet a device called the "DeGERMinator” they claimed used ultraviolet light to "wipe out surface germs in less than five seconds, including anthrax.’’

Beales noted that there is no scientific proof ultraviolet light can kill anthrax. He also advised that similar ozone-producing machines advertised on the web will not eradicate the lethal spores.

Recently the same coordinated multi-agency Internet surveillance effort led the Environmental Protection Agency to move against two companies selling unregistered pesticides claiming to protect the public from anthrax.

The EPA ordered and requested the companies voluntarily to recall these illegal products from the marketplace.

The orders were issued to Homeland Security Plus of Gilbert, Ariz., for the illegal sale of "Biohazard Decontamination Solution,” and to Testing Kits Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the illegal sale of "EnviroFoam Easy DECON,” also known as "EnviroFoam.”

"Selling unregistered products not approved for public use and preying upon consumers’ heightened concern for their families’ health is unconscionable,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman in a recent press statement.

The companies have since removed the promotion for these products from their websites.

According to the EPA, it has authorized only the limited use of an anthrax decontaminating foam (a formulation of quaternary ammonium and hydrogen peroxide) for use in emergency cleanup operations of Congress, federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service.

The emergency use was authorized for limited spot decontamination only by federal, state or local emergency response personnel and not by the general public.

Firms or individuals who violate the FTC Act could be subject to a federal district court injunction, enforceable through civil or criminal contempt proceedings; or an administrative cease-and-desist order, enforceable through civil penalties of up to $11,000 a violation. Sellers also could be ordered to make consumer refunds.

Additionally, the FTC is referring suspect sites to state and other federal agencies with appropriate enforcement authority.

The latest round of FTC warning letters sent in mid-December, targeted devices ostensibly providing protection from nuclear, biological or chemical contaminants. In November warnings went out to owners of about 50 sites that sold suspect treatments for anthrax, smallpox and other bioweapons.

So far, more than 25 of the initial 50 warned sites have eliminated suspect claims to satisfy the FTC’s concerns. Others that have not yet complied face potential prosecution, advised the agency.

"Our ‘surf’ results and cases such as these unfortunately demonstrate the need for consumers to be very skeptical of products that claim to protect the public against bioterrorism,” said Beales.

Beales said he was most concerned with the many sites advertising gas masks as protection against bioterror attacks. He advised consumers to check if the advertised masks bear certification by the Defense Department or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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So far the Internet canvas has turned up more than 200 sites marketing dubious protection devices as air filters, gas masks, protective clothing and ultraviolet light mechanisms claiming to kill anthrax bacteria. A total of 121 e-mail letter warnings were sent out,...
Feds,Lean,Bioterror,Fear,Profiteers
616
2002-00-03
Thursday, 03 January 2002 12:00 AM
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