Lawsuit Challenges TruGreen Chemical Lawn Care Company for Deceptive Safety Claims; Pesticide Applications Stopped by Some States During COVID-19 Crisis as Nonessential
(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2020) Last week, Beyond Pesticides sued TruGreen, the national chemical landscaping company, for misrepresenting the safety of the toxic chemicals that it uses to treat lawns. The case is Beyond Pesticides v. TruGreen (DC Superior Court, Case No. 2020CA001973B, March, 20, 2020). At the same time, the organization is urging all states to prohibit toxic chemical spraying in neighborhoods as non-essential and hazardous. Widespread exposure to lawn pesticides, which are immune system and respiratory toxicants, can elevate serious risk factors associated with COVID-19 (coronavirus).
As part of its marketing, TruGreen tells consumers that it offers environmentally friendly, sustainable lawn care services that use no chemicals that may cause cancer, allergic reactions, or other health or environmental harms. These claims, according to Beyond Pesticides’ complaint, are false and deceptive and illegal under the laws of the District of Columbia.
Advocates suggest that during the COVID-19 crisis the cessation of pesticide applications in neighborhoods across the U.S. will reduce involuntary exposure to chemicals that exacerbate respiratory and immune system illness and risk factors associated with coronavirus. Lawn care services have been determined by some states to be non-essential services and are prohibited from applying chemicals and delivering other lawn services. However, TruGreen has notified customers that it will continue to deliver services where permitted. Some companies are reporting cancellations. The litigation is intended to curtail use of hazardous pesticides long-term.
TruGreen makes several claims to consumers that, according to the lawsuit, the company knows to be false. As stated in the complaint, “TruGreen purports to offer environmentally friendly, sustainable lawn care services that use no chemicals that may cause cancer, allergic reactions, or other health or environmental harms.” Beyond Pesticides shows that these claims are false and deceptive.
Quoting from TruGreen’s information to consumers, identified as false and deceptive in the ligitation:
“We will not approve products containing known or probable human carcinogens as defined by the U.S. EPA, the National Toxicology Program, or the International Agency for Research in Cancer [IARC].”
“We do not approve products that are known skin sensitizers or that may produce allergic reactions.”
“We do not approve products known or thought likely to leach to groundwater when applied to lawns.”
In fact, TruGreen uses the weed killer glyphosate (Roundup), which is identified by IARC of the World Health Organization as probably carcinogenic. It uses a chlorophenoxy (Tri-Power) another weed killer whose label warns of “irreversible eye damage” and “allergic reactions.” Another hazardous pesticide identified in the lawsuit is triclorfon (Dylox), a neurotoxic organophosate insecticide.
As stated in the complaint, TruGreen’ s representations are intended to, and do, portray to consumers that its lawn care services are environmentally responsible and free from harmful chemicals.
“It’s time that chemical lawn care companies to stop deceiving the public and their customers with deceptive, misleading, and false information on the real hazards of the pesticide they use,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “These practices are particularly abhorrent, given the availability of organic compatible products that do not cause harm,” said Mr. Feldman.
Beyond Pesticides advocates for the adoption of organic land management, a systems approach that eliminates toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers and builds organic matter and soil biology as a means of cycling nutrients for plant health. This approach is successfully and economically used in managing lawns, parks, and playing fields across the country.
TruGreen’s false and misleading representations and omissions violate the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“DC CPPA”), D.C. Code§§ 28-3901, et seq. Beyond Pesticides is represented by the Richman Law Group in New York City.