Daily News Archive
From February 23, 2001

Four Attorneys General File Lawsuit Against EPA Seeking Full Labeling of Pesticide Products

The office of New York Attorney General (A.G.) Eliot Spitzer announced on February 16, 2001 that an action has been brought against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to require pesticide manufacturers to list all of the ingredients on the label. Spitzer, along with Connecticut A.G. Richard Blumenthal, Massachusetts A.G. Tom Reilly, and Alaska A.G. Bruce Botelho, requested three years ago that EPA require this information be included on pesticide labels. Currently, the so-called "inert" ingredients (inerts) are considered classified business information and so manufacturers do not disclose them. The inerts can make up to as much as 99% of some pesticide formulations. "Consumers have a right to know about all of the ingredients in the pesticides they use around their homes," remarked Spitzer. He pointed out that "Full disclosure will allow consumers to make informed decisions about which products to use or not use."

All pesticide formulations contain an active ingredient, the chemical that is specifically designed to poison and kill the pest, and inerts, chemicals designed to make the pesticide easy to use or more effective such as solvents, surfactants, and/or emulsifiers. There are 2,300 inert ingredients registered with EPA, the agency has determined that hundreds of them are harmful to human and environmental health. For example, two inerts, toluene and ethylbenzene, have been identified as "hazardous" chemicals under federal laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Superfund Law that requires the cleanup of toxic waste sites. Many inerts are known or suspected to cause cancer, central nervous system damage, liver and kidney damage, and birth defects.

The Lawsuit filed by the four Attorneys General charges that EPA has unreasonably and illegally delayed action on this vital health matter and asks for a decision on the three-year-old petition within 60 days. Spitzer notes that "Federal regulations rightly require detailed label information on all ingredients in food, cosmetics and other products. The same standard should also apply to pesticides, which are toxic products that are widely used in our homes, schools and directly on our food." "It is clear that the process EPA has put in place is not going anywhere and should not be a substitute for the agency ruling on a three-year-old petition that is very important to protect public health," Spitzer added.

For more information about inerts, visit the New York Attorney General's website at: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/reports/inerts/table_of_contents.html, for a May 2000 report, The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk.