(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requesting public comment on options for disclosing inert ingredients in pesticides. In this anticipated rulemaking, EPA is seeking ideas for greater disclosure of inert ingredient identities. Inert ingredients, which can be highly toxic, are part of the end use product formulation, but not defined as active against the target organism. Revealing inert ingredients will help consumers make informed decisions and may lead to better protection of public health and the environment.
“Consumers deserve to know the identities of ingredients in pesticide formulations, including inert ingredients,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “Disclosing inert ingredients in pesticide products, especially those considered to be hazardous, will empower consumers and pesticide users to make more informed choices.”
Public disclosure is one way to discourage the use of hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide formulations. The agency is inviting comment on various regulatory and voluntary steps to achieve this broader disclosure. Pesticide manufacturers usually disclose their inert ingredients only to EPA. Currently, EPA evaluates the safety of all ingredients in a product’s formulation when determining whether the pesticide should be registered.
On October 1, 2009, EPA responded to two petitions; one by Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and a second by several state attorneys general, that designated more than 350 inert pesticide ingredients as hazardous. The petitioners asked EPA to require that these ingredients be identified on the labels of products that include them in their formulations. In its response to petitioners, the agency said, “EPA agrees with the petitioners that the public should have a means to learn the identities of hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide product formulations. The agency believes that increased transparency could lead to better informed decision making and better informed pesticide use.” It continues, “EPA will also be discussing ideas to increase disclosure of all inert ingredients identities to an even greater degree than requested by the petitions.”
Despite their name, “inert” ingredients are neither chemically, biologically or toxicologically inert. In general, inert ingredients are minimally tested, however, many are known to state, federal and international agencies to be hazardous to human health. A 2009 study finds that an inert ingredient in the popular herbicide RoundUp, polyethoxylated tallowamine or POEA, is more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself — a finding the researchers call “astonishing.” POEA is a surfactant, or detergent, derived from animal fat. It is added to Roundup and other herbicides to help them penetrate plants’ surfaces, making the weed killer more effective.
Take Action: Submit your comments by going to www.regulation.gov and using docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0635. Comments must be received on or before February 22, 2010.
Source: EPA News Release