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Daily News Blog

13
Jun

Court Says Law Allows Secrecy of Hazardous Pesticide Product Ingredients

(Beyond Pesticides June 13, 2016) A federal judge in California handed down a decision last week agreeing with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) that it has no responsibility under federal pesticide law to complete rulemaking on the disclosure of hazardous ingredients in pesticide products. That means that if the decision stands EPA will be allowed to keep the public in the dark on the full list of toxic ingredients in pesticides registered by the agency. A lawsuit filed by the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility argues that EPA fails to protect consumers from “inert” ingredients found in pesticides.

gavelU.S. District Judge William Orrick stated in his ruling,“The EPA has no mandatory duty to require disclosure of “inert” ingredients in pesticides, even if those ingredients qualify as hazardous chemicals under separate statutes.” Advocates have said for decades that people and communities cannot make informed decisions on pesticide products without full disclosure of all product ingredients and that the stated proprietary interests of chemical manufacturers is bogus, given the burgeoning market of pesticide products exempt from registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) 25(b) provision, which are required to disclose all ingredients.

An  inert ingredient  is defined as any ingredient that is “not active,” or specifically targeted to kill a pest. According to a 2000 report produced by the New York State Attorney General,  The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk, 72 percent of pesticide products available to consumers contain over 95 percent inert ingredients and fewer than 10 percent of pesticide products list any inert ingredients on their labels. The report also found that more than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are hazardous pollutants in federal environmental statutes governing air and water quality, and, from 1995 list of inert ingredients, 394 chemicals were listed as active ingredients in other pesticide products. For example, naphthalene is an inert ingredient in some products and listed as an active ingredient in others.

Some inert ingredients are even more toxic than the active ingredients. One of the most hazardous ingredients in the commonly used herbicide Roundup, POEA, is a surfactant, which is classified as an inert and therefore not listed on the label. Researchers have found that  POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

A decision in this case has been long awaited, as the dispute began back in 2006 when Beyond Pesticides and other groups petitioned the EPA to require pesticide manufacturers to disclose 371 inert ingredienton their pesticide product labels. After an extended period of time, in 2009 EPA  finally  responded  to the petition asking it to require that inert ingredients be identified on the labels of produc
ts that include them in their formulations. Then, on December 23, 2009, EPA took another promising step forward with an  Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), announcing its intention to seek public input on developing an inert ingredient disclosure rule. Putting forth two proposals, one would require listing of all ingredients already identified as hazardous and the other would require listing of all ingredients. Unfortunately, EPA has taken no further action since then. As a result, some of the original petitioners  filed an “undue delay” complaint  against EPA  in 2014  for failing to complete rulemaking that would require pesticide manufacturers to disclose  the inert ingredients on  their pesticide product labels.

In response to that lawsuit, EPA retracted its previous ANPR and intention to move forward with rulemaking. Instead, EPA issued a  letter  to the original 2006 petitioners describing its intentions to seek non-rulemaking regulatory programs and voluntary disclosure standards, stating, “In sum, [EPA] believe[s] we have identified a more effective and timely way to achieve our common objective; but, because this approach would no longer pursue the rulemaking the EPA initiated via the [ANPR] seeking to mandate the disclosure of potentially hazardous inert ingredients on pesticide labels, as requested in the 2006 petitions, this amended response constitutes a denial of the petitions.”

EPA then used its change of position and denial of the 2006 petition as a basis to have the undue delay lawsuit thrown out because it would no longer be issuing a rulemaking.

In response to this, plaintiffs filed this current lawsuit, advocating against EPA’s current policy to encourage voluntary disclosure by manufacturers, given that it has not been effective to-date in making people aware of what inert ingredients are found in pesticides. They also continue to argue that the toxic ingredients in question clearly meet the standard for “unreasonable risk” which the EPA is tasked with combating under FIFRA.

The failure of EPA to require the disclosure of inert ingredients poses many problems for those trying to protect human health. Failure  to disclose the ingredients not only prevents consumers and decision makers from making informed decisions and comparing hazards. Local and state governments also run into roadblocks in their efforts to protect citizens, as they cannot readily evaluate what is in the pesticides products (formulations) that they are spraying in their communities to make independent judgments on safety, putting their citizens at risk. Under the prevailing laws, it is EPA’s duty to assess these risks and disclose the necessary information, through pesticide labels, as to what harmful ingredients pesticides contain.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach  that prohibits hazardous chemical use and requires alternative assessments to identify less toxic practices and products under the unreasonable  adverse effects clause of FIFRA.  Beyond Pesticides was a co”plaintiff in the successful lawsuit Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides et al. v. EPA (Civil Action No. 94”1100, 1996), in which the court ruled that “inert” ingredients should not be given blanket trade secret protection by EPA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In that  case, the plaintiffs successfully argued that EPA must disclose inert ingredients since their secrecy from public disclosure served no proprietary interest for the chemical manufacturer. This same argument holds with respect to the product label.

Environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, have consistently urged EPA to follow in the steps of countries like Canada and the European Union by following the precautionary principle, which generally approves products after they have been assessed for harm, not before. Beyond Pesticides  suggests an approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, and instead focuses on  safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as  organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of toxic chemicals.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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One Response to “Court Says Law Allows Secrecy of Hazardous Pesticide Product Ingredients”

  1. 1
    Carr Says:

    Let’s try to get a law out there that compels full ingredient disclosure and an assessment of alternatives.

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