Professional pesticide products are being sold to amateur gardeners on eBay and other websites, an investigation by Greenpeace Unearthed has found.
They contain chemicals in concentrations that cannot legally be used by anyone untrained in their safe use. But there is no law against selling these products to unqualified buyers.
Environmental campaigners warn that, without proper training, amateurs using these products pose a risk "to their own health and the environment".
Unearthed has seen a written briefing by the Crop Protection Association, which describes the online sale of professional pesticides to amateurs as an "area of significant concern". The briefing says professional products available on eBay and other websites - particularly those containing the weedkiller glyphosate - are "frequently listed or advertised with amateurs clearly as the target audience using words such as ‘Very Strong’, or ‘Strongest’, or ‘Super Strength’".
It states: "They often do include the word ‘professional’ however there is a belief that this is being used to highlight that the product is better or ‘stronger’ than the products typically available for amateur gardeners."
Unearthed identified several sellers on eBay that advertise professional pesticides in this way.
The CPA said: "As an industry we are concerned about the sale of professional products to amateur users online. This is why we are working with eBay and other internet companies to close any loopholes and ensure that professional products are only sold to suitably qualified professionals."
These findings follow a previous Unearthed investigation which revealed that mislabelled pesticides were easy to buy on eBay’s UK site, triggering a trading standards authority investigation.
Westminster City Council is the "primary authority" for all trading standards issues associated with eBay in the UK and promised to investigate the issue when approached by Unearthed.
Council cabinet member for public protection and licencing Ian Adams said: "Westminster City Council will follow up the new listings with eBay to ensure that they are removed and further discuss the measures in place to prevent similar listings appear in future."
Nick Mole, from Pesticide Action Network UK, said: "Without proper training, amateur gardeners could misapply these [professional] products, posing a risk to their own health and the environment."
In response to the story, a spokesperson for eBay said: "eBay has no tolerance for illegal sales of pesticides on our marketplace. We work closely with the regulators like the HSE to ensure that all listings comply with the law and we constantly monitor our marketplace to enforce this."
The rules on pesticides in the UK are enforced by local authority trading standards authorities and the Health and Safety Executive.