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Daily News Blog

02
Dec

PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in Mosquito Pesticide, Raising Concerns Over Widespread Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2020) PFAS (per and polyfluorinated alykyl substances) ‘forever chemicals’ are being detected in a commonly used mosquito pesticide known as Anvil 10+10, according to reporting from the Boston Globe based on independent testing from a watchdog group and state regulators. PFAS are a large family of nearly 5,000 chemicals that may never break down in the environment and have been linked to cancer, liver damage, birth and developmental problems, reduced fertility, and asthma. The chemicals already disproportionately contaminate people of color communities, and there is evidence they reduce the efficacy of vaccines. While many may be familiar with PFAS for its use in nonstick cookware, electrical wire insulation, personal care products, food packaging, textiles, and other consumer goods, its presence within an already toxic pesticide is alarming. Perhaps most concerning, neither the manufacturer nor regulators have a good understanding of how exactly PFAS chemicals made their way into pesticide products.

“This is an issue that cuts to the core of what’s wrong with our federal system for regulating pesticides,” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director at Beyond Pesticides. “The finding makes it imperative that EPA review and disclose full pesticide formulations before allowing the public to be exposed to unknown hazards.”

Watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) conducted a preliminary test on Anvil 10+10 this fall, detecting presence of PFAS in a 2.5 gallon jug. “Our tests revealed that Anvil 10+10 contains roughly 250 parts per trillion (ppt) of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and 260 – 500 ppt of hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), a GenX replacement for PFOA,” the group wrote in a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state regulators. Concerned by the results, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection initiated its own testing directly from 55 gallon drums of the product. Not only was PFAS found, some of the detections exceeded safety limits recently enacted by the state for drinking water. Although EPA does not currently regulate PFAS, it established a 70 ppt Lifetime Health Advisory for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.

Why would PFAS be found in a pesticide formulation? The chemicals can work well as dispersants, surfactants, anti-foaming agents, or other pesticide adjuvants intended to increase the effect of the active ingredient. EPA includes PFAS chemicals in its “Inert Finder” database, and a PEER press release indicates that many companies have patents on file for pesticide formulations containing PFAS.

Clarke, the manufacturer of Anvil 10+10, denied to the Boston Globe that PFAS was deliberately introduced, but did indicate that contamination could have occurred during production or packaging. Major contamination issues have happened with pesticide formulations in the past. In the 90s and early 2000s, DuPont was subject to a series of lawsuits after its Benlate fungicide was contaminated with the toxic herbicide atrazine. Perhaps most notorious was the Vietnam-era rainbow herbicide Agent Orange, which was highly contaminated with another ‘forever chemical,’ dioxin TCDD (2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzodioxin), a byproduct of the pesticide’s manufacturing process. Although the active ingredients in Agent Orange were highly hazardous, it was dioxin that caused horrific birth defects that continue to plague Vietnam today.  

Under federal pesticide law, impurities are required to be reported as part of a product’s registration if they are “toxicologically significant.” It is unclear whether PFAS was tested for contamination, or may have been disclosed to EPA, as product formulation data is considered Confidential Business Information by the agency.

Beyond Pesticides has worked to improve public transparency around pesticide formulations, as it is precisely this sort of secrecy that leads the public to lose confidence in federal regulators. Joined by other environmental and health groups, the organization sued EPA to require disclosure of full pesticide formulations. EPA, after initially indicating it would proceed, reversed course and decided to disclose only 72 inert ingredients it claimed were no longer use in product formulations. Despite assertions that PFAS is not in pesticide formulations, it was not on the agency’s list.  

EPA’s statement to the Boston Globe does little to quell concerns. “There are significant unanswered questions about the data currently available,” Dave Deegan, a spokesman for the EPA’s offices in New England told the Globe. “EPA will continue to work closely with and support the state on this issue. Aggressively addressing PFAS continues to be an important, active, and ongoing priority for EPA.”

However, according to PEER, localities in at least 25 states have used Anvil 10+10 as part of their mosquito spray program.

“In Massachusetts, communities are struggling to remove PFAS from their drinking water supplies, while at the same time, we may be showering them with PFAS from the skies and roads,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, who arranged for the testing. “The frightening thing is that we do not know how many insecticides, herbicides, or even disinfectants contain PFAS.”

It is likely that these initial tests have only begun to scratch the surface of the sort of contamination that is present in pesticide formulations. To address this issue and achieve publicly accessible, full product testing and disclosure will require strong leadership at the federal level. We can even go further – and work to eliminate the need to register toxic pesticides by promoting organic and ecological pest management practices. But to do so, EPA must stop taking risks with people’s health for the benefit of corporate profits. Help tell President-elect Biden we need an Environmentalist to head EPA, with broad environmental credentials and a vision that embraces a dramatic transition away from hazardous chemicals and polluting practices.

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

Source: PEER, Boston Globe

 

 

 

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One Response to “PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in Mosquito Pesticide, Raising Concerns Over Widespread Contamination”

  1. 1
    Paule Hjertaas Says:

    Thanks for this info. Apparently neither Anvil nor the PFAs mentioned are listed in the Canadian PMRA label search or newest list of formulants. Because chemicals have so many names, I would like to suggest that including the CAS number for each would be useful for people to research whether they are allowed in their own country. Here they are: 335-67-1for
    Perfluorooctanoic acid and HFPO dimer, acid fluoride: CAS 2062-98-8 |

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