The packaging is easy for a child, and even an adult, to confuse for candy and other food. But make no mistake about it, these neatly wrapped packets contain highly dangerous illegal pesticides that could put children in danger.
"Illegal pesticides can and do poison people," said Judith Enck of the Environmental Protection Agency. "They can make people sick, especially kids who might mistake them for candy."
Enck and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced the arrests Monday of 10 retail owners accused of selling the pesticides. Two others were arrested for distributing the products -- thousands of them -- mainly manufactured and imported from China.
The lethal pesticides were sold in bodegas, stores and street vendors throughout Chinatown and other neighborhoods with heavy Asian and Hispanic populations.
The appeal of the product to customers, according to officials, is that they are cheaper than pesticides approved by the EPA . They're also extremely potent, but that's where the danger lies: they can cause skin and eye irritation, and possibly even cancer or death, officials said.
Officials say one woman was hospitalized last year after she ingested a product labeled "The Cat Be Unemployed." It contains a poison that causes rats to bleed to death internally.
The sellers were charged with reckless endangerment; the two who distributed the pesticides were charged with federal misdemeanor violations of pesticide laws.
To learn more about safely handling pesticides, visit the EPA site here.