FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ENR TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 1998 (202) 514-2008 TDD (202) 514-1888

CLARKSDALE WOMAN SENTENCED TO ONE YEAR IN PRISON

FOR FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME THAT RESULTED IN DEATH

A Clarksdale, Mississippi woman was sentenced today to one year, the maximum prison sentence, for selling a deadly pesticide not bearing the appropriate warnings, announced the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi. The sale of the pesticide without the warnings resulted in the death of one of her customers.

In a case that has received national attention, Margaret Stewart pled guilty on March 31, 1998 to one count of selling the pesticide endosulfan in improperly labeled containers. The plea and sentencing were before U.S. Magistrate Judge Eugene Bogen in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.

"This was a needless tragedy," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources. "Warning labels on dangerous pesticides are intended specifically to prevent this type of harm. If individuals selling pesticides do not take the regulations seriously, then law enforcement will."

Ms. Stewart sold the white colored pesticide in a clear one gallon plastic milk carton bearing its original label to a customer in Clarksdale. The customer purchased the pesticide for her mother, Minnie Lou Rudd of Batesville, Mississippi. Ms. Rudd mistakenly drank the pesticide and died, thinking it was milk.

Endosulfan is an organophosphate poison that is toxic to nerve cells. Death may result from respiratory arrest. It is registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency solely for agricultural use and may not be used in homes for any purpose.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District will pursue meritorious allegations of environmental crimes as vigorously as we pursue other types of criminal activity," said Calvin "Buck" Buchanan, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi. "Making our environment safe for our children and other citizens is a responsibility that we take seriously." (more)

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the statute under which Ms. Stewart was charged, regulates the use and distribution of pesticides. It requires that all pesticides distributed in the U.S. be approved by the E.P.A. for specific uses and that they bear labels providing appropriate warnings and instructions for their safe and proper use. Individuals who violate federal pesticide laws and regulations are subject to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

This case was prosecuted jointly by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oxford, Mississippi and the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. It was investigated by the Criminal Investigative Division of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Mississippi Environmental Task Force, the FBI, and the Clarksdale and Batesville Police Departments.

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