US-based discount retailer 99 Cents Only Stores has been fined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for selling unregistered disinfectants to customers in underserved Latinx communities.

Between October 2020 and June last year, the retailer allegedly sold Bref Densicloro, a Spanish-language multi-use household cleaner and disinfectant to marginalised communities across Arizona, California and Nevada.

According to the EPA, Bref Densiclorow contained the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite that was not registered as required under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Public health claims for disinfectants and other pesticide products can only be made once they have been properly tested and registered with the EPA.

EPA Pacific Southwest regional administrator Martha Guzman said: “By taking action against companies selling disinfectants that are not effective, do not meet our safety standards, or make false claims, EPA is protecting the public as we all continue to face Covid-19 challenges.

“Companies that sell illegal disinfectants will face significant fines.”

In addition, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) found that 99 Cents Only Stores had offered two unregistered products, Momentum Brands Disinfectant Wipes and Alchemy Living Multi Surface Cleaner, at its store in Murrieta, California.

These products claimed to be pesticidal but were unregistered under the FIFRA.

DPR director Julie Henderson said: “California takes these types of violations seriously, especially in communities that historically have been disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards.

“Selling unregistered pesticides – including disinfectants — is both unlawful and potentially dangerous.

“Our scientists routinely inspect stores throughout the state for illegal pesticides like these and the department also works closely with the EPA to ensure violators are punished.”

The EPA said the move highlighted its commitment to leveraging its enforcement tools to deliver environmental justice.

99 Cents Only Stores was ordered to pay $751,055 to settle the illegal practice.