This Biologist Panned a “Mosquito Eradicator” Product. Its Maker Bit Back.

Welcome to the wild west of insect control commerce.

Biologist Colin Purrington's critical review of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator resulted in a defamation lawsuit that spanned four years.Hannah Yoon/Undark

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A November 2021 climate march in Amsterdam. Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via ZUMA

This story was originally published by Undark and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In 2019, Colin Purrington, an evolutionary biologist, was scrolling through the internet when he came across something that would change his life.

Purrington, 57, who left a professor position at Swarthmore College in 2011 to spend more time with his family, dabbles these days: He snaps nature photography, gives presentations at the local farmer’s market, and occasionally reviews products for his personal blog. On that fateful day in 2019, a new product had caught his eye: The Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, a roughly foot-long black and orange tube with a Corinthian helmet emblazoned on the side, its plumes replaced by mosquito wings. Inside was a mixture of sugar, yeast, and salt.

“I was intrigued, given that it said that it could kill 95 percent of mosquitoes,” Purrington recalled in an interview with Undark. The claims seemed too good to be true, he thought, so he decided to try it out.

After purchasing two tubes for about $25, Purrington hung them in his yard in Pennsylvania and checked them, he says, more than a 100 times over the summer. But he didn’t see much happen, a fact that compelled him to write a nearly 4,000-word review on his personal website.

To say it was a pan is an understatement. “The Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is unlikely to kill a single mosquito unless it falls from the tree and lands on one,” Purrington wrote. He called some of the company’s claims “idiotic.” He also laid out a lengthy case that the company had misled regulators about the efficacy of its product, lied to customers, and broken some laws—and encouraged readers to contact regulators and file complaints.

“My attorneys were the same ones that sued Rolling Stone and won, so they are pretty good at that.”

A tube of baking ingredients might not seem like much to get worked up about. But mosquito control isn’t exactly low stakes: The insects are considered the deadliest animals on the planet. In the US they are known to carry West Nile virus and, occasionally, other diseases. In tropical regions, they can deliver dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya, and malaria—the last of which, in 2022, accounted for 608,000 deaths globally, mostly among small children. As climate change pushes the boundaries of the warm, wet regions where many insect species thrive, mosquito-borne illnesses are expected to spread and even worsen.

Even where mosquitoes are a mere nuisance, killing or repelling them is a lucrative business. AC2T, Inc., the company that sells Spartan products and also does business as Spartan Mosquito, sold a reported 4.5 million of its Eradicator boxes by the end of 2019. At one point, the company even sponsored a NASCAR racer. And AC2T is just one of many in a sizeable global market: According to market research, mosquito control products—that is, products that aim to kill the pest—may be worth $1.4 billion worldwide by 2027. The mosquito repellant market, where products are designed to drive the insects away rather than kill them, is already worth billions.

In the US, those markets are flooded both with products that are effective, and products that simply are not—many of which, due to their mild ingredients, receive minimal oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency. “The implications for human health are not good,” said Immo Hansen, a biologist and mosquito researcher at New Mexico State University. “People might actually think they are protected when they are not.” (Hansen independently tests mosquito products but has not vetted any of Spartan’s wares.)

This environment allows products like the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator to thrive. But AC2T, which is based in Mississippi, may be unique in the lengths it has taken to bring its products to market in the US.

According to documents obtained through records requests to the EPA and more than a dozen state agricultural departments—some obtained directly by Undark, and others shared by Purrington—representatives from the company have leaned on their political connections to push past regulatory requirements. In an interview in March 2024, Jeremy Hirsch, 46, a co-founder of AC2T, called some of the steps in those regulatory requirements “bureaucratic BS.” Hirsch, a former sandwich shop worker and Army veteran who, by his account, is a self-taught expert in volatile organic compounds and mosquito ecology and behavior, met his co-founder, Christopher Bonner, when they worked together at Bonner Analytical Testing Company, a family-run chemical analytics company.

The Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, originally manufactured in a garage, and the more recent Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech. Hannah Yoon/Undark

According to AC2T, its new director as of April is Josey Hood, who described herself as Hirsch’s ex-wife and said that Hirsch no longer speaks for the company. But in interviews with Hirsch predating that transition, he described ambitious plans for the company he co-founded. AC2T sold its first Spartan Mosquito Eradicator in Mississippi in 2017 and, not long after, sought to go global. In 2018, according to correspondence from AC2T, the company planned to expand to 54 countries; in 2020, it announced a pilot project to test its products in West Africa, where malaria is a leading cause of death. “Yes ma’am, there were tons of plans,” Hirsch told Undark. If not for the legal challenges, he said, “I’d be all over the place by now.”

Indeed, Purrington’s efforts did not go unnoticed. Months after his initial review went live, AC2T filed a defamation lawsuit against the former professor. “My attorneys were the same ones that sued Rolling Stone and won, so they are pretty good at that,” Hirsch said. “And they said all you need is seven specific things that he said that you can prove he knew otherwise at the time he said it, was blatantly false. And we had 13 things.”

The company’s own commissioned research indicated that Purrington was right—that the product did not work as suggested. Nevertheless, they pressed ahead.

Throughout the lawsuit, the biologist continued his very public—and, to some observers, quixotic—quest to expose what he saw as the company’s misdeeds. He authored more than a dozen blog posts, created an expansive timeline on AC2T’s history, made countless posts on social media, and sent a deluge of emails to the EPA, the Federal Trade Commission, state health departments,, and pesticide managers in the agricultural departments of all 50 states. Soon after the defamation case began, lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against AC2T, which represented plaintiffs who said they had bought a product that did not work; that case reached a preliminary settlement in 2023 for a maximum of $3.6 million and, pending the court’s final decision, may eventually take some of the company’s products off the market.

“If you interviewed anyone who followed me on Twitter, they’d roll their eyes and say Purrington, yeah, he just can’t stop posting about these companies,” he said. But he was upset that Spartan had been eyeing the West African market. “No one was going to stop them from getting a foothold in malarial regions,” he said. “And they were going to make a killing.”

Humans have cooked up all sorts of ways to battle mosquitos: We spray them with pesticides and larvicides, drain the stagnant water in which they need to breed, zap them, kill them with fish, and even deploy genetically altered mosquitoes to help bring down populations. Some state and national governments, especially in tropical areas, maintain entire divisions devoted to waging systematic campaigns against the insects. At the individual level, health officials urge people to use proven, EPA-registered repellents, to wear long sleeves and pants, and to avoid going outdoors when mosquitoes are most active.

Some of these approaches are easy for anyone to do without much or any government oversight. Others are regulated, including the production of pesticides, which are mainly the responsibility of the EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA.

“I think there are some companies that do take advantage of not having to do EPA registrations.”

But within the world of pesticides, there is a murky category: Those that are exempt from EPA registration because their ingredients are considered generally safe to use. These “minimum risk” ingredients, as they are called, include essential oils, putrid eggs, certain salts, and more. “EPA has kind of washed their hands” of such products, said Daniel Markowski, the technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association.

Some exempt products can in fact kill insects, said Jerome Goddard, a medical entomologist at Mississippi State University. But the products only work if “they get on the bug. They kill on contact,” he said. The problem, Goddard said, is that the active ingredients in these unregulated products often don’t stick around in the environment long enough to be effective. Another issue: “Some of these manufacturers make exorbitant claims that just aren’t true.” (Goddard declined to speak on the record about AC2T or its products.)

Companies that want to sell EPA-exempt repellents or pesticides still need to register with individual states—though in some, the oversight is fairly cursory: Regulators simply make sure that the ingredients on a product’s label are indeed on the minimum risk list, that it follows the basic rules outlined by the law, and that it doesn’t include any outrageous claims about how well it works, including big claims related to human health. Others require data proving that the products work, including Mississippi, AC2T’s home state.

The exempt products—often called 25(b)s, for the section of FIFRA under which they fall—are notoriously difficult for state regulators to evaluate. In emails obtained by Undark, Denise Clanton, a former branch director at the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Bureau of Plant Industry, complained to colleagues in other states about the difficulty of enforcing those laws. “We have such a difficult job with these 25b products when it comes to questionable claims because we have such small amounts of guidance in certain areas,” she wrote.

Spartan Mosquito even sponsored a NASCAR racer. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Many experts, including representatives from the American Mosquito Control Association, the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials, and individual state officials, say that this system is broken—creating a glut of exempt products with wildly varying effectiveness and inconsistent oversight. “The 25(b) regulation is tricky for states,” said Sarah Caffery, the pesticide product registration manager for the Office of Indiana State Chemist. “It creates a lot more resource needs from states to ensure they are reviewed at the highest level needed.”

“I think there are some companies that do take advantage of not having to do EPA registrations,” she added.

Regulators have cracked down on some of these products. For instance, in 2015, the Federal Trade Commission charged a company with making false claims about a wristband that contained mint oil, which supposedly warded off mosquitoes; the company settled with the agency the next year for $300,000. In 2018, the FTC settled with a New Jersey business for claiming that its perfumes and candles could repel Zika-carrying mosquitoes. And while the American Mosquito Control Association doesn’t take a stance on specific products, it generally advises the public to stick with those that are EPA-approved. (Hirsch described the American Mosquito Control Association as a “neurotoxin lobby group.”)

In 2021, the EPA announced that it was considering a change to 25(b) products, perhaps by streamlining the registration process or amending current exemptions, prompting dozens of public responses. To date, the agency has not publicly disclosed how or whether the regulations will change, and there is no official deadline as to when its review will be complete.

It is against this backdrop that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator landed.

In 2016, Jeremy Hirsch was working at a sandwich shop called Which Wich Superior in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Around that time, as he recalled in an interview with Undark, he got the idea to make a product to control mosquitoes when he saw his then-pregnant wife readying to spray down one of their children with insect repellent and thought to himself: “There has got to be an easier way.”

“I started reading a lot online, just everything I could about mosquitoes in general,” said Hirsch. “How long they live, you know. What they’re attracted to. How their important systems work, like muscular and neuro systems, et cetera.”

First, he made a spray to put on, say, the yard to keep mosquitoes at bay. The spray contained boric acid—a pesticide widely used to kill ants, roaches, and other pests. “Turns out it kills everything, kind of indiscriminately,” he said. Then he tried stuffing boric acid and other ingredients into black socks and black painted water bottles, the color of which may attract the insects. These too, he said, killed any insect that came into contact with them.

After some more experimentation—and some consultations with Chris Bonner, who had previously worked with Hirsch during the latter’s stint at his family’s chemical company—Hirsch came up with the black and orange tubes for the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. Later in 2016, the two men formed AC2T, named, Hirsch said, for the first initials of their respective children, and started manufacturing the product in a garage.

Purrington pours the powder from a Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech tube, which contains sugar, yeast, and boric acid. Experts have raised concerns that the combination of yeast and sugar, used to lure the mosquitos, may not work as intended. Hannah Yoon/Undark
Purrington hangs a Spartan tube in his backyard. He is the only scientist not affiliated with AC2T that Undark was able to find who has tested the Spartan Pro Tech in the wild. His conclusion is that it does not work. Hannah Yoon/Undark

At the time, the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator contained sugar, yeast, and boric acid. Users could add warm water to the product’s tube, prompting the yeast to activate and chomp some of the sugar to emit carbon dioxide (mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 in a person’s breath). The mosquitoes would then enter the tube through one of several tiny holes to feed on the remaining sweet liquid inside—females eat blood when they need protein to lay their eggs, but both females and males also regularly eat sugary nectar—while also ingesting the boric acid. The product, the company claimed, would kill mosquitoes at a rate of 95 percent.

AC2T was soon peddling its product to local officials. In late September 2016, for instance, Joseph “Jody” Waits, a Lamar county administrator and family friend of Bonner’s, invited AC2T to hang the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator in a Mississippi neighborhood that had a case of Zika. The county’s mosquito control unit had “fogged the area” for four days, according to internal documents—including, according to an interview with Waits, the area in which AC2T hung its products. The number of mosquitoes subsequently dropped.

AC2T later called the occurrence a “case study,” claiming it was the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator that had succeeded in wiping out the local mosquitoes. The company also suggested in advertising materials that their work was endorsed by the state’s health department, which the latter denied. The advertisement drew a warning from the Mississippi Attorney General. (Lamar County eventually purchased 500 Spartan Mosquito Eradicators.)

By 2017, AC2T was selling its boric-acid-based product locally. And in early April 2017, Hirsch promoted the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator to the Hattiesburg City Council, for possible use in the city. “The poison levels in there—it’s a poison called boron, or borax,” he told the officials. “We’re to the point now, and we should be able to finalize this in the coming weeks, where there is zero poison in it whatsoever.” (Both boric acid and the household cleaner borax are compounds that contain boron, but they’re not interchangeable.)

Hirsch had been looking to drop boric acid from the product because the pesticide falls under EPA regulation—and AC2T had not gone through the required registration. Hirsch argues to this day that his original product had less boric acid than lipstick, silly putty, and other common products. “It seemed innocuous to us,” he told Undark. He also insists that, at the time, AC2T had repeatedly asked the agency for guidance on whether boric acid required registration, without response. An email dated April 10, 2017, from the EPA’s Region 4, which oversees Mississippi, however, clarifies to Hirsch: “Regarding your product, based on what you’ve described, it would be considered a ‘pesticide’ according to the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide and Fungicide Act (FIFRA).”

Without federal approval for its boric acid product, the company swapped the ingredient for table salt, maintained its claim that the new product would kill 95 percent of mosquitoes, and applied for a 25(b) registration in Mississippi and a handful of other states. As proof that the product worked, the company sent Mississippi regulators a 15-page paper with Hirsch as the sole author, sponsor, study director, and test subject. Clanton, the state employee responsible for approving pesticides for sale, granted the registration, although, in a later email to a fellow pesticide regulator in Maine, she said she had not wanted to do so but that “the call was out of my hands.” (When reached by phone, Clanton said: “I do not want to talk about that product” and hung up.)

In this 2019 video, Jeremy Hirsch, co-founder of Spartan Mosquito, describes one of his products for a local news station.

Scientific evidence puts AC2T’s claims about its salt-based formulation into question—including research by independent scientists that the company hired to investigate whether its tubes actually worked. One of those scientists is Donald Yee, a mosquito ecologist at the University of Southern Mississippi. Yee would not speak directly about AC2T or its employees.

“As you may know they are very litigious, and have been ‘hostile’ to me in the past,” he wrote in an email to Undark. But in legal filings related to the class action suit against AC2T, Yee has recounted some of his experiences working with the company: After he disclosed his research findings, which showed that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator did not work, Hirsch engaged in what Yee’s attorneys described in a legal brief as “bullying tactics.”

“I stormed out last time and said fine, Mississippi will look like the dummies who allow the product to be sold and manufactured here.”

Yee did speak to Undark in generalities about the ingredients within such a device. In a phone interview, he noted that the combination was unlikely to kill mosquitoes for several reasons: The amount of CO2 produced by a small bit of yeast isn’t enough to draw swarms of mosquitoes; the sugar water wouldn’t be more attractive than the numerous nearby blooms from gardens and wild plants; the salt, which is a major component of human blood, wasn’t lethal. Some scientists, including Purrington, also say that mosquitoes cannot fit through the holes in AC2T’s products, a claim that the company has disputed.

Another scientist who tested the product, Rui-De Xue, the director of the Anastasia Mosquito Control District in Florida, declined an interview request. “Sorry I cannot discuss with you about this product,” he wrote to Undark by email, noting that he was “tired of the lawsuit and cost.”

Both Yee and Xue have, however, published relevant peer-reviewed research. In a study published in 2020, Yee teamed up with scientists across five separate labs to determine whether or not table salt could kill mosquitoes; it did not, and the findings were consistent across nine mosquito species that bite humans, including several that spread disease. And in early 2021, Xue, along with several colleagues, published the results of tests of AC2T’s salt-based product on one mosquito species. “Both laboratory and field components of our study show that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is not effective in reducing abundance,” the researchers concluded.

Unpublished research performed upon AC2T’s request also suggested that the product would not work. An October 2019 report from Hirsch’s former employer, Bonner Analytical—completed about two months before AC2T sued Purrington for defamation—examined the CO2 that the yeast in the Eradicator emitted. The company concluded: “Based on all of our available research our product never produces enough CO2 to meet the burden of proof for mosquito attraction.”

In a March 2024 phone call with Undark, which lasted more than an hour, Hirsch defended the company’s products. “No one in their right mind would say, well, mosquitoes aren’t attracted to stagnant water,” he said, responding to claims that the product’s yeasty liquid does not attract mosquitos. And in a two-hour follow-up interview in early June, Hirsch stressed that any test on just one element of the product—including the Bonner CO2 findings—isn’t enough to prove that the product doesn’t work: “Things don’t happen in a vacuum. You’re addressing one out of the 10 things that attract mosquitoes to that device, ok?”

In regards to whether any test could ever definitely prove the efficacy of any mosquito product—including his—he said in an earlier interview: “If they go away, does that mean that it works? I don’t know.”

By the end of 2018, Spartan was available for sale in at least 47 states, and the company was growing so quickly that it moved to a 63,000-square-foot production facility in Laurel, Mississippi. But emails suggest that the company had already begun encountering headwinds, as state officials grew wary of the Eradicator—often following email alerts from Purrington—as well as a new product from AC2T called Sock-It-Skeeter, which contained the same salt-based ingredients. (Hood, the company’s current director, told Undark that the Sock-It-Skeeter never made it to market.) Regulators began pulling back on registrations, some citing the lack of efficacy data, and others citing inconsistencies and false health-related claims on the respective 25(b) labels.

At the same time, state records and interviews indicate, AC2T representatives were appealing to elected officials for help.

In at least three states, lawmakers stepped in to defend the company, urging regulatory agencies to give AC2T special consideration or questioning their decisions. In 2018 in Maine, for instance, when the state pesticide registrar at the time, Mary Tomlinson, was facing a months-long backlog of 25(b) products needing review, a sales manager at AC2T “contacted a legislator here to get it pushed up to the front, who then contacted our commissioner,” she wrote in an email to Clanton, the Mississippi official. (Tomlinson declined an interview request.)

The pressure campaign echoed what Clanton seems to have experienced in Mississippi. “I was told from above to approve,” she said in another email from 2018. In a June 2019 email, she told colleagues in other states that she had been told to “expedite a review” for Sock-It-Skeeter. “I am having to prove myself over and over due to the political push from these people,” she wrote.

And in a message from November 2019, Clanton vented to Caffery in Indiana about the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator and the Sock-It-Skeeter. “Every time I mention issues with those two products, I get ‘that look’ like drop it. So, I give up,” she wrote. “I stormed out last time and said fine, Mississippi will look like the dummies who allow the product to be sold and manufactured here. More importantly, I look like the dummy bc I’m the registration person which makes me even more angry.”

(Although Undark interviewed Caffery, she declined to speak about her experiences with AC2T on the record.)

A written statement from Robert Graves, the Mississippi Special Assistant Attorney General, said in part that the states agricultural department “has complied with all the requirements” for registering the Spartan Mosquito products. The agency did not respond to specific questions from Undark regarding pressure from ACT2T, stating: “we are simply unable to continue to devote our limited resources to your investigation.”

Even as the company faced pushback, it prepared to launch a new product—again seeking help from elected officials. In 2018, documents suggest that the company was readying a product that would use boric acid instead of salt. According to documents obtained through a records request, a letter from Christopher Spence, then the chief financial officer at Spartan Mosquito, to Scott Pruitt, then head of the EPA, asked for a waiver to get the product fast-tracked for federal approval. Spence wrote a similar letter to Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who had previously served as the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce.

“I took all the technology and everything we learned…I handed it to the president of Togo and said: Do with it what you will.”

Should the company be able to legally add boric acid to their product, the letters claimed, they would be able to kill every single species of mosquito on the planet, including those that spread disease. The letter also noted that it had escalated its concerns with pesticide registration all the way up to the White House, referring to an attached letter from Trump in support of the company. (The Trump letter itself has not been released. Hirsch declined to share the letter, but told Undark that it said, in reference to regulators: “Good luck with everything, and just keep talking to them.”)

Around this time, the company began considering overseas markets, too. In the letters to Pruitt and Hyde-Smith, AC2T noted plans to enter 54 countries. In 2019, Hirsch was attending social events with then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and the American Chamber of Commerce-Ghana; in 2020, Hirsch was working with officials in Togo, in West Africa, where malaria is the leading cause of death, to test AC2T’s product. “We are so pleased to partner with Spartan Mosquito to promote effective new mosquito-control solutions in Togo,” the Minister of Health and Public Hygiene Professor Moustafa Mijiyawa said in a press release. (Mijiyawa did not respond to a request for an interview, nor did Tinah Atcha-Oubou, the coordinator for Togo’s National Malaria Control Program.)

According to Hirsch, in Togo, he was initially giving his products and other expertise away for free: “I took all the technology and everything we learned, I put it in a book, and I handed it to the president of Togo and said: Do with it what you will.”

Whether a boric acid-based product like the Spartan Pro Tech would work any better than salt-based ones is unclear. On one hand, boric acid is a known pesticide and, if ingested, it will kill a mosquito. Xue and many other experts have published research on toxic baits that contain both sugar and boric acid, and found that, at least in highly controlled laboratory settings, the combination is lethal to at least some species. Field studies on mosquito baits that are laced with boric acid have had mixed results.

But the concerns that experts have raised over the yeast and sugar combination, which are used in the Pro Tech to lure and feed the mosquitoes, respectively, remain relevant. While experts do use CO2 as a mosquito lure, it typically requires pounds of dry ice, which dissipates entirely overnight, several experts told Undark. By comparison, the Spartan products contain about a teaspoon of yeast, and the company claims that the product will last for 90 days. The company’s own report from Bonner Analytical noted that the previous product, the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, did not contain enough yeast for a lure; the amount of yeast in both products appear to be roughly the same, according to reports submitted to the EPA.

The EPA approved registration of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech in March 2020. In an email message to Purrington later that year, Erik Kraft, an EPA scientist who, at the time, was in charge of boric acid products, wrote: “In the case of Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, EPA reviewed studies on the product’s acute toxicity, product chemistry and efficacy and found these data to be acceptable and therefore registered the product.”

A review of the scientific data submitted in support of the Spartan Pro Tech shows that an independent research company performed lab tests which, in line with the broader scientific literature, confirm that when mosquitoes eat boric acid, they die. Field tests were performed by Bonner Analytical Testing Company, the chemical analysis company where Chris Bonner, the co-founder of AC2T is employed, and the analysis report was co-authored by Chris; his father Michael Bonner; and Hirsch.

“I spent four years in the Pennsylvania courts” and was “tired of paying fucking lawyers.”

The report only briefly describes several field tests and has scant methodological information or analysis. In response to queries about Spartan Pro Tech efficacy data, Jeffrey Landis, an EPA spokesperson, wrote via email: “A comprehensive review was completed on the study reports submitted in support of the Spartan Pro Tech application. The review team determined that the conditions under which those studies were conducted were adequate to assure the quality, validity, and integrity of the data.”   

The EPA did not review any documents related to the CO2 produced by the Spartan Pro Tech. “Attractancy claims, which would have been supported in part by acceptable CO2 data, are not included on the EPA-approved label; therefore, no data were required for those specific claims,” Landis wrote via email.

Undark was unable to find any scientist who isn’t affiliated with AC2T who has tested the Spartan Pro Tech in the wild—aside from Purrington. On Purrington’s website, his withering review provides his own answer as to whether it works: “No.”

Pending the outcome of the class action settlement agreement, the company may have to halt sales of both products, at least in the United States. According to the proposed settlement agreement, which reads, in part, that it is “the product of extensive, arms-length, and vigorously contested settlement discussions,” AC2T will be prohibited from selling the salt-based Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. To sell the boric-acid-based Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, meanwhile, the company would have 18 months to conduct additional research proving that it works.

Speaking prior to Hood’s takeover as the new director of the company, Hirsch suggested that wouldn’t be a problem: “We run hundreds of tests a year. We aren’t going to stop doing what we’re doing.” In a subsequent email, Hood noted that AC2T runs product tests several times a year, not hundreds. The company did not respond to multiple requests to share data from of any of those tests with Undark.

Due at least in part to AC2T’s legal woes, which Hirsch said cost him $7 million and pushed him out of his job, the company is not making any moves into the international market. Any mention of AC2T’s expansion into West Africa—or elsewhere outside of the US—has quietly disappeared from the company’s website and literature, and a separate website for a related nonprofit, the Innovative Mosquito Control Incorporated, is also gone.

For his part, Hirsch insists that the many actions against AC2T are part of a wider effort by the mosquito control industry to push a small competitor out of the market. As for the company’s own hopes for the future, Hood stressed to Undark: “We plan to continue to manufacture and sell to our customers. We believe in our product. We’ve hit some stumbles just as any young companies do, but we are optimistic for the future.”

Indeed, the future of AC2T in the US is far from clear. Emails among state and federal employees, as well as other documents, suggest that the EPA could be investigating the company. (Both the EPA and the Federal Trade Commission declined to respond to questions about any potential investigations.) Earlier this year, attorneys representing AC2T in the class action suit dropped the company as a client, citing a failure to pay their legal bills.

The legal team representing AC2T in its defamation suit against Purrington had done the same. (Hirsch told Undark: “I spent four years in the Pennsylvania courts” and was “tired of paying fucking lawyers.” Hood told Undark that she thought the lawsuit was without merit, and that as the new director of the company, she decided “not to pursue the case.”) In mid-March, the judge dismissed the defamation case against Purrington with prejudice.

Purrington says he spent more than $90,000 preparing for trial—money he’s trying to recoup, at least in part, in a lawsuit against AC2T, which he filed on May 14, 2024.

But when he reflects more broadly on his ordeal, the scientist’s irritations reach well beyond the company. “I’m mad that they sued me,” Purrington said. “But I’m just kind of disappointed at the rest of the world for not caring as much as I do.”


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