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Daily News Blog

13
Dec

Pesticides Incorporated into Fabrics and Housewares Are Hazardous, and Not Adequately Regulated

(Beyond Pesticides, December 13, 2021) If you plan to give socks, sweatshirts, or other items of clothing as holiday gifts, you need to be aware that many such items are treated with toxic chemicals. Such treated items may be labeled as “odor free” and may contain nanosilver, triclosan (banned in soaps, but allowed in textile and household products), or other (undisclosed) chemicals hiding behind brand names such as Microban® or FreshIQ. Since it is not always possible to determine which chemical may be used in these textiles, the best option is to buy clothing that is organic or made locally. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempts treated articles from registration requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Although the chemicals themselves may be registered antimicrobial pesticides, the treated products in which they are found—and which expose the public to them—are not considered pesticides. Besides clothing treated with antimicrobials to control odors, EPA also allows seeds, wood, paints, cutting boards, sponges, mops, and even toothbrushes to be treated with antimicrobial pesticides under the exemption—as long as claims made for the treatment only pertain to protecting the treated article. For example, sock manufacturers may claim that the treated socks won’t stink but may not claim that they will protect the wearer from athlete’s foot.

Failure to regard treated articles as pesticides has serious implications. Manufacturers are not required to reveal the actual chemicals to which consumers are exposed. Studies have found that, when impregnated into textiles like sportswear, nanosilver does not just wash out in the washing machine, it can also seep into a person’s sweat and end up being absorbed into the skin. The size of nanosilver means that it can easily pass into the body’s blood and lymph system, and circulate through sensitive areas such as the brain, liver, and heart. Triclosan has been linked to a range of health and environmental effects, from skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance, and dioxin contamination to destruction of fragile aquatic ecosystems.

EPA does not evaluate the effects of exposure to these fabrics. It does not apply the risk-benefit standard in FIFRA to these uses. It simply considers them outside of the scope of pesticide regulation.

Tell EPA to regulate pesticide-treated articles as pesticides, examining alternatives and requiring labels. 

Letter to EPA (Office of Pesticide Programs and Administrator Regan)

Please remove the exemption for registration of pesticide treated articles (PR-2000-1). Treated articles pose uncontrolled threats to human health and the environment. EPA is not deciding to allow such uses based on FIFRA’s risk-benefit standard but is applying an arbitrary criterion based on the advertising claims of purveyors of treated articles.

Who decides that the benefits of seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides outweigh the risk of an apocalyptic collapse of insect populations? Who decides that the benefits of wood impregnated with toxic copper compounds outweigh the risks to workers and those using treated wood? How does EPA justify ignoring the risks to consumers of cutting boards, toothbrushes, socks, and underwear exposed to toxic antimicrobial chemicals?

None of these decisions should be made in the absence of data. None should be made in the absence of a showing of need (“benefits”) of the pesticide. Certainly, none of these uses should be allowed without full and transparent disclosure to the consumer of the chemical—not a brand name whose properties cannot be determined.

In other words, all such “treated articles” should be required to be registered as pesticides.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

 

 

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  • Archives

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    • air pollution (2)
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