(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2009) The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and Beyond Pesticides are asking that you take action to help secure everyone’s right to know about “secret” hazardous ingredients found in commonly used farm and household pesticide products. Please e-mail Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson at Hazardous_Inerts_Ingredients@epamail.epa.gov, no later than May 1, urging EPA to respond to NCAP’s petition and mandate that pesticide manufacturers list hazardous “inert” ingredients on pesticide labels.
“Inert” refers to ingredients in a pesticide formulation that have been added to the active ingredient to serve a variety of functions, such as acting as solvents, surfactants, or preservatives. However, the common misconception is that “inert” ingredients are physically, chemically, or biologically inactive substances. EPA allows pesticide manufacturers to put harmful chemicals into pesticide products without telling the public — chemicals linked with cancer, genetic damage, and reduced fertility, despite admitting the policy is misleading. EPA has stated that “many consumers have a misleading impression of the term ”˜inert ingredient,’ believing it to mean water or other harmless ingredients.”
A December 2006 commentary in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ journal Environmental Health Perspectives calls for improvements in pesticide regulation and “inert” ingredient disclosure, citing an extensive body of literature illustrating the concern over related human and environmental health effects. The authors, Caroline Cox, then with NCAP and now research director at the Center for Environmental Health, and Michael Surgan, Ph.D., chief scientist in the Office of the Attorney General of New York State, highlight the regulatory weaknesses that allow the “inert” ingredients in pesticide formulations to go largely untested. The commentary provides evidence that inerts are often far from harmless and need to be examined closely for environmental, wildlife and public health effects. Further, they present an urgent need for “inert” regulation and disclosure due to the ubiquitous nature of pesticides in the environment. Read a summary or the full article.
EPA must be told that these ingredients can no longer be kept secret. That is why in 2006 the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, along with Beyond Pesticides and other allies filed a legal petition challenging the EPA’s policy of secrecy on these ingredients. Fifteen Attorneys General submitted a companion petition to EPA. Please e-mail Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson at Hazardous_Inerts_Ingredients@epamail.epa.gov, no later than May 1, urging EPA to respond to NCAP’s petition and mandate that pesticide manufacturers list hazardous “inert” ingredients on pesticide labels.
For more information on inert ingredients and other components of pesticide products, read Beyond Pesticides factsheet, “What’s in a pesticide?” To learn more about NCAP’s work to ensure our right to know about hidden poisons in pesticides, go to: http://www.pesticide.org/inertspetition06nr.html. More information about the petition is available on the NCAP website.