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Did Sunlight Supply Poison Hydroponics Medical Crops? Featured

  • Written by  Jeff Thompson
Hydroponics growers believe Sunlight Supply poisoned plants! Hydroponics growers believe Sunlight Supply poisoned plants!

A few years ago, professional state-legal California medical growers noticed their hydroponics crops were showing yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and poor yields. In some cases, entire crop cycles were wiped out. The growers lost huge amounts of sleep, money and valuable medical crops, nearly going crazy trying to understand what was killing their crops. They examined all the factors you’re supposed to examine when you have crop problems: pH, water quality, nutrients, climate control, pests, diseases, plant genetics. You name it, they looked at it.

Through a process of elimination they narrowed the cause down to a toxin called Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) allegedly contained in National Garden Wholesale (NGW) ½” Black Flexible Polyvinyl Chloride Tubing. NGW is an affiliate of hydroponics distributor Sunlight Supply, and all three entities are also known or affiliated as IP Holdings LLC.

The hydroponics growers say they had tests run, and conducted tests themselves. Convinced by the testing that NGW tubing was the culprit, they contacted Sunlight Supply and NGW, seeking an explanation and compensation. They got nowhere, so they retained an attorney, Jeffrey Lake. After Lake contacted Sunlight Supply and NGW, he received an August, 2010 letter from an attorney representing the companies. The attorney is named Joshua Stump.

Mr. Stump’s letter offers various attacks dismissing the growers’ claim that NGW tubing damaged their crops. It also contains a troubling section in which Stump says that regardless of whether the growers’ crops were legal according to California law, they were still illegal under federal law. As such, the lawyer claimed, the “illegality” of the growing would likely protect Sunlight/NGW from product liability claims.

Stump’s letter also contains a lot of prying questions about the identity and confidential financial and/or medical history of medical patients and growers. The tone of the letter is smarmy, arrogant and hostile, but given Sunlight Supply's history of abusing hydroponics growers, retailers and competitors, this is no surprise. 

Attorneys who examine Stump’s letter say Stump’s approach leaves the impression that Sunlight Supply and NGW are making a veiled threat to harass and/or nark out hydroponics growers and patients if they pursue warranty claims against Sunlight Supply. Nevertheless, on November 22, 2010, Lake and his client plaintiffs (referred to as BT Collective) filed a class action complaint against IP/NGW/Sunlight Supply in San Diego County Superior Court.

During my research about DIBP and other toxins that might enter plants via hydroponics materials, I learned that such chemicals may harm humans as well as hydroponics plants. I also discovered a substantial record of complaints and concerns regarding toxicity problems associated with indoor hydroponics grow tents and chambers made from plastics and similar materials.

Beginning in 2006-07, an increasing flood of hydroponics growers began complaining in online hydroponics cultivation forums and elsewhere about off-gassing and poisoning caused by toxins in hydroponics grow tent materials and similar materials. Hydroponics growers told me they’d had problems with indoor chambers made or distributed by HydroHut, Sunlight Supply and other companies.

Reports from growers indicate that of the tent/chamber manufacturers whose customers were complaining about toxic materials, only HydroHut exercised good customer service in seeking to resolve the issues.

In preparation for writing this article, I directly contacted Sunlight Supply to ask them about their tubing and the court filing, and I had previously posted a hydroponics article containing public questions for Sunlight Supply. As you may be aware, Sunlight Supply, NGW, Maximum Yield and Urban Garden are businesses that make a huge amount of money from hydroponics medical growers, but they discriminate against hydroponics medical growers by censoring them, kicking them out of indoor gardening expo events, and preventing them from getting accurate hydroponics product information relevant to medical hydroponics crops.

I previously posted a public article giving these profiteers a chance to publicly explain their actions, but the only response I ever got from Sunlight Supply was an email from Stump. Of course, he didn’t provide information that hydroponics growers need to know about Sunlight Supply’s potentially-toxic products, Sunlight Supply customer service and warranty policies, or why Sunlight Supply and their allies discriminate against hydroponics medical growers. Instead, Stump tried to get me to disclose information about myself!

Fortunately, I was handed what is purportedly a communication sent to hydroponics dealers from Sunlight Supply’s president, Craig Hargreaves, regarding BT Collective’s claims about NGW tubing. I am including the letter in its entirety, because I want to make sure that Sunlight Supply’s version of events is represented fairly. Here is the letter Hargreaves allegedly sent to his retailers:


Craig R. Hargreaves

“I write to you today to discuss a matter pertaining to our Eco-Plus ½ inch black (part # 708235) and blue (part # 708225) branded tubing. Sunlight Supply/NGW has purchased this tubing from a Chinese manufacturer for approximately 3 years now and have sold it without any complaints from our customers. However, we recently received a single complaint from a group called "The BT Collective", a group out of Southern California stating that use of this tubing has caused damage to their crop. When we were first notified of this complaint we requested additional information to help us verify the claim. While the BT Collective responded to this request with additional claims, they failed to provide adequate information to determine whether any of the tubing had caused harm to their crops.

The claim cites that a certain chemical used in the makeup of the tubing, is specifically responsible. To date, we have no credible evidence that this chemical, which is used to give plastic products a soft, pliable feel, has caused any harm to any customer's crops.

Sunlight Supply/National Garden Wholesale has purchased and sold this tubing for 3 years. In this timeframe, we have not received a single complaint from any storeowner or consumer before hearing from the BT Collective. In our experience, when there is a product on the market which is causing plant damage, that problem is quickly discovered. Our customers understandably care a lot about their plants and tend to report problems immediately after they are discovered. In short, we believe that if there were truly a problem with the tubing we have sold, we would have heard about it from customers long before now and from multiple sources. We have not.

Further, when we first started purchasing this tubing, we conducted internal tests by growing plants fertilized and irrigated with water running through the tubing and simultaneously submerged a full 100-foot roll in the reservoir. Our internal tests revealed no damage to the plants.

Sunlight Supply/NGW is a distributor of thousands of different products manufactured by hundreds of different manufactures. Black ½ inch vinyl tubing (the vast majority of sales) is a commodity product both for the industry and us. Sunlight Supply/NGW has no good reason to believe that the tubing it has been purchasing from its Chinese manufacturer causes harm to plants. However, rather than engage in a complex scientific debate, it is far easier for us to merely change tubing vendors.

Out of an abundance of caution, here are the steps we have taken:

Discontinued purchasing from the previous Chinese vendor for the Eco-Plus branded ½ black (product #708235) and blue (product # 708225) vinyl tubing.

Discontinued selling to Dealer Partners these 2 products.

Clarification - The Chinese manufacturer made only 2 of the tubing products (1/2" black and 1/2" blue). No complaints have been received related to any other tubing products in the dealer catalog (page 262).

Changed over to a domestic (USA) supplier on ½ inch black and blue vinyl tubing. These products will now be sold under the Gro-Pro brand name. For inventory clarification, the part numbers have changed. GroPro brand ½ inch black tubing is part #708265, ½ inch blue tubing is part #708260.

All orders now shipping, on ½ inch black and blue vinyl are now made in the USA and have been certified by the manufacturer as, "food grade" and made with only FDA approved materials.

In a good faith show of support for you, our valued business partners, we are offering to take back for credit or exchange (for the USA GroPro brand product) this tubing from any dealer partner wishing to return the Eco-Plus brand ½ inch black or blue tubing. Please contact your local customer service representative with any such requests.

Sunlight Supply/National Garden Wholesale takes our obligation to provide our Dealer Partners with quality, safe and functional products extremely seriously as we have for the last 15 years. At this time, we have no verifiable evidence beyond the BT Collectives claim, that plants irrigated and fertilized through EcoPlus brand ½ inch black and blue has caused damage to plants. However, we felt obligated to inform our Valued Dealer Partners of this matter.

As always, thank you for your ongoing support of our company.

Craig R. Hargreaves, President

Obviously, if you are using an indoor hydroponics pre-made chamber, or thinking of buying one, be sure to ask the manufacturer about toxic off-gassing and warranties. In general, you need to be cautious when using any plastic or other petroleum-based material in your grow room, and do what you can to determine if it might off-gas anything that harms you or your plants.

Big Mike doesn’t seem to like Sunlight Supply Smile

Perhaps as important an issue is how Sunlight Supply and other companies treat hydroponics growers. For example, Craig Hargreaves offers to reimburse “our valued business partners” (retailers) for unused NGW ½ inch tubing, but has made no offer to reimburse hydroponics medical growers who say they’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of medical crops because of that tubing.

When you see Sunlight Supply react to complaints about its products by hiding behind outdated and cruel federal laws that hydroponics growers oppose and are victimized by, you see the undeniable fact that Sunlight Supply and its allies endanger the freedom and rights of hydroponics medical growers. You just can't trust Sunlight Supply when they've long hidden behind federal law as a business tactic to oppress hydroponics growers and the entire hydroponics industry.

The bottom line is if your high value hydroponics crops are experiencing problems and you can’t find any causes in your nutrients, water, climate, genetics or other hydroponics supplies and procedures, you should investigate whether your crops are being poisoned by Sunlight Supply. Other hydroponics growers are convinced that Sunlight Supply poisoned their hydroponics medical crops, and they're sure enough about it that they've taken their claims to court!

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Last modified on Tuesday, 30 October 2012 06:08

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