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May 6, 1999

Toxic chemicals demonstrated orally by young, eager sales force

by: Jerry Jordan

It’s so safe you can spray it in your mouth, at least that is what hundreds of young people selling a powerful cleaning agent across the country believe.

However, Hy-Pro Spray Cleen, touted as a biodegradable, environmentally friendly cleaning product, contains a toxic chemical, butyl cellosolve, that is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

In a behind-the-scenes investigation by The Examiner, it was discovered that young people selling the product were spraying it into their mouths as a sales gimmick to lead people to believe that Hy-Pro was not hazardous.

Two employees of The Examiner witnessed such acts and questioned those selling the product about why they would put a cleaning product in their mouths.

“It won’t do anything, but make you go to the bathroom,” said Angel, an 18-year-old female hired by N.J. Distributors to sell the product manufactured in Pilot Point, north of Dallas. “Besides it’s Earth Day. People will go for that stuff.”

N.J. Distributors, which is operated by Nick Joseph of Florida, buys Hy-Pro in bulk and retails it to homes across the country via door-to-door sales.

Angel and other young people selling the product for Joseph said they had sprayed Hy-Pro in their mouths on numerous occasions.

What they don’t know is that butyl cellosolve can cause systemic poisoning and prolonged exposure could cause, “damage to the liver, kidneys, lymphoid system, blood and blood-forming organs,” according to Material Safety Data Sheets from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The registered agent for Hy-Pro Chemical Corp., Joe Edge, defended the product saying it was indeed biodegradable, but would not say who tested Hy-Pro to determine its safety.

“It’s done in different states,” Edge said. “I know that it’s been done three or four times,” but he refused to tell where it was tested.

Edge did say he does not encourage people to spray his product in their mouths.

“They dilute it down to the proportions that they are supposed to demonstrate with it,” Edge said. “It's not going to hurt them. They are told not to, but you know again they are independent and they can do what they want to. “If they do something like that they are doing it on their own,” Edge said. “They are sure not encouraged to do it.”

David Barry, an EPA spokesperson in Dallas said, “in minute concentrations it (Butyl cellosolve) probably wouldn’t hurt anyone. But, if repeated over a period of time, even in small amounts, it could cause severe problems.”

Edge is the president for several companies located on the same property as Hy-Pro. He would not discuss in detail what the other companies sell or manufacture. He did say that Hy-Pro was a separate corporation that had nothing to do with his other business ventures.

Joseph claims to be a millionaire, which may be true, but those young people peddling Hy-Pro door-to-door didn’t appear to be enjoying that same level of success.

Additionally, Edge would not comment as to how much it costs to produce Hy-Pro, but the product retails for $59.95 per gallon.

Sales people are promised commissions up to 50 percent of their sales plus big bonuses, but those interviewed said they weren’t making anywhere near that much money. The only bonus that was offered the day The Examiner was present, was a “bonus” to keep their jobs.

“I make about $300 a week,” said Jon, one of the sales people for Joseph. After discussing his pay with The Examiner, it was discovered that Jon was working about 60 hours a week. At that rate his income was only $5 an hour, which is less than minimum wage.

In a sales meeting prior to the young people getting in groups and traveling to neighborhoods throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Joseph and others said a positive attitude and motivation is the only way they could make “real” money.

Members of the Pilot Point Police Department say they receive hundreds of calls from concerned parents looking for their children who signed on with distributors of Hy-Pro.

“Over the years there has been numerous complaints,” said Sgt. Dan Lintner of the Pilot Point police department. “We have a lot of complaints. We have parents calling from all over the United States wanting to know about their children. I can’t say whether I approve of the business one way of the other. I have parents calling desperately trying to find their children.”

Lintner said when the sales crews come to town it is basically uneventful, but officers have filed charges for minors being in possession of alcohol.

“We have some problems with the kids when they are in town,” Lintner said. “I don’t recall us ever filing any drug charges against any of them. I t may have happened over the years, I can’t recall… We may have gotten some for minor in possession.”

Edge said he could not dictate behavior or morality to his distributors. He said it bothers him that some people on the sales crews peddling his product are using drugs and alcohol, but they run their own lives.

Edge did not say that he would terminate a distributor’s contract for allowing drug use and did not seem overly concerned that vehicles registered to Pilot Point, using his business as a base of operations were transporting drugs.

“They travel and they don’t basically have a home base so they use the office address as their address,” Edge said.

N.J. Distributors base of operations is listed in records from the Florida Secretary of State as Satellite Beach, Fla., yet some vehicles used by Joseph show a registration address at 821 E. Production Dr. in Pilot Point. That is the location of Hy-Pro Chemicals.

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