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I have a bottle of Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner with Bleach, marketed for sale in the United States. Its label reads, in part (and with emphasis removed):

Directions for use: It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Use only in well-ventilated areas. Before use, open windows and turn on fan. If vapors bother you, leave room while product is working.

(Other, similar products have a similar statement.)

  • Is it really a violation of federal law to use the product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling? Suppose I didn't open windows before cleaning my bathroom: did I violate the law?
  • What law? — citation, please.
  • Is there a punishment prescribed if one is found guilty?
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    my suspicion is that this is a blanket clause applied to all cleaning products because stupid kids decided to try and get high by inhaling large amounts of toxic fumes. – Ryathal Oct 11 '12 at 13:19
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    @Ryathal - Or to use it as a weapon, or agent of vandalism... often these cleaners contain chemicals that can cause damage to both organic and non-organic materials. So you can not say that I did not know it was illegal to use my drain cleaner to mix a cocktail for my no good cheating wife... – Chad Oct 12 '12 at 20:31
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    Also if you negligently mix the cleaner with another cleaner against directions and cause damage to other people... then you could be held responsible. Or if you take the cleaner and put it in a bottle not labeled or mislabeled. Basically if you do anything that someone could get in trouble for doing :p – Chad Oct 12 '12 at 20:48
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    In some cases, the penalty is death and the punishment may be carried out at the time of offense without benefit of a trial as a natural consequence of the laws of nature and chemistry. – Paul Nov 8 '12 at 4:39
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+50

Yes, it is against the US Federal law. Yes, in theory it can cost you $1000 or 30 days' jail.

Is it true that the manufacturer's label on a CONSUMER (as opposed to agricultural, etc.) pesticide imposes a legal obligation on the purchaser to use the product only as directed on the label? LC10-0330; 4/6/10

FIFRA sec. 12(a)(2)(G) makes it a violation of federal law for any person "to use any registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling." All registered pesticides, including registered consumer pesticides, must bear the statement:

"It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling." 40 CFR 156.10(i)(2)(ii).

Section 2(ee) of FIFRA provides limited exceptions to what is considered "in a manner inconsistent with" labeling. For instance it is not a violation to use a pesticide at a rate lower than that specified on the label unless the label specifically prohibits deviation from the specified rate.

The penalties are described in FIFRA Section 14, and for "private applicators" are limited to:

  • Civil Penalties: Not more than $1,000 if you do it after receiving a citation or written warning from the EPA.

  • Criminal Penalties: "fined not more than $1,000, or imprisoned for not more than 30 days, or both."

6

It might refer to the OSHA Act however, the OSHA act obviously doesn't apply to you unless you are an employee or an employer using bleach-based products in your business

"Section 5(b) of the OSHA Act states that "each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations and orders issued pursuant to the OSHA Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct." In addition, the courts have repeatedly held that under Section 5(a)(2) of the Act (29 U.S.C. 654(a)(2)), employers are responsible for ensuring worker protection. OSHA and the courts have concluded that respirators and other protective equipment must be used during cleanups that require bleach if requested by the employee or required by the employer.

OSHA Regulations on Use of Bleach

Section 5

  • +1, many thanks, but I wonder whether there's another law which applies more generally. – msh210 Oct 11 '12 at 1:01
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    @msh210 probably a blanket clause, but I can envision dumping toxic chemicals in the toilet or using them to poison someone would certainly be a violation of the law, and may well be what is intended with such clauses (in order for the company to cover themselves in case a victim of such poisoning sues the product manufacturer for damages based on "you didn't print on the box that it wasn't supposed to be used to poison my husband" or some such nonsense, lawsuits which in the US are sadly all too common). – jwenting Oct 11 '12 at 6:40

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