And “inert” doesn’t mean “insignificant” – the majority of pesticides are formulated so that the unlisted ingredients comprise an overwhelming 95 percent of the product volume – a truly disturbing reality.
Natural health advocates demand full disclosure of these toxic pesticide ingredients
In 2006, almost two dozen environmental groups – including Beyond Pesticides, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides – filed a petition with the EPA asking that pesticide labels disclose any of a long list of 371 inert ingredients. Inert ingredients are defined as “not active” – or, not specifically designed to kill pests.
Along with the petition, a group of State Attorneys General identified over 350 inert pesticide ingredients as hazardous, and asked that the EPA require these ingredients to be identified on labels.
In 2009, the EPA drafted an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, announcing that it would seek public input on developing an inert ingredient disclosure rule. The action covered two proposals: one required the listing of ingredients already identified as hazardous, while the other required the listing of all ingredients –whether active or inert.
EPA dragged its feet for five more years
For five years, the EPA took no further action, and the proposals languished. In March of 2014, the groups filed an “undue delay” complaint against the EPA for failing to complete the rulemaking. Unfortunately, the EPA has a track record of ignoring serious public health concerns.
The EPA’s response was to retract the previous ANPR and deny the petitions. The agency then announced that it would instead seek “non-rulemaking regulatory programs” and “voluntary disclosure standards,” and would no longer seek to mandate the disclosure of potentially hazardous inert ingredients on labels.
In June of 2016, a federal judge in California handed down a decision siding with the EPA – ruling that the agency has “no responsibility under federal pesticide law” to complete rulemaking on the matter of disclosure of hazardous pesticide ingredients.
But, here’s the thing, “inert” doesn’t mean harmless.
Shockingly, some inert ingredients are even more toxic than the active, pest-killing ingredients. For instance, POEA – a surfactant used in Roundup – can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. And some ingredients – such as naphthalene, a compound distilled from petroleum – can function as “switch-hitters,” appearing as inert ingredients in some products, and active in others.
Yet, 90 percent of pesticide products do not list the inert ingredients on the label.
In order for an inert ingredient to be listed, the EPA Administrator must determine that the chemical poses a “public health threat.” Doesn’t it make you wonder what it takes to wake up the administrator?
According to a report issued by the New York State Attorney General, more than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are hazardous pollutants by federal standards.
Pesticide ingredients linked to deadly diseases
Natural health experts have long warned of the connection between pesticides and devastating diseases. In fact, 28 out of the 40 most commonly used pesticides in schools have been linked to cancers of the bladder, brain, liver, prostate, blood and bone.
Exposure to pesticides raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions – along with cognitive dysfunction and problems with learning and behavior.
Organophosphate pesticides are associated with obesity and diabetes – as well as with endocrine disruptions which interfere with the function of the thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary glands.
Children are particularly susceptible to harm from pesticides, and researchers report that even low-level exposure can adversely affect intelligence and learning.
And 7 different insecticides, 2 herbicides and a fungicide have been associated with increased risk of asthma.
EPA’s recent proposal is too little, too late
In December, the EPA finalized a proposal banning 72 inert, potentially hazardous ingredients from use in pesticides. Although this may seem encouraging at first glance, critics say the gesture is meaningless. According to Beyond Pesticides, the 72 ingredients, which include turpentine oil and nitrous oxide, are no longer used in manufacturing the products.
Beyond Pesticides maintains that the failure of the EPA to require disclosure prevents consumers – as well as local and state governments – from making informed choices and comparing pesticide hazards, thereby putting citizens at risk.
That’s putting it mildly. With no way to identify or evaluate the toxins, users of pesticides are truly “flying blind” – and the situation seems unlikely to change any time soon.
The EPA has a duty to assess the risks and disclose the necessary information, through labels, as to what harmful ingredients the products contain.
Yet this is clearly not being done – by any stretch of the imagination.
The fact remains: despite the efforts of environmentalists, inert ingredients need not be identified on labels – and can continue to lurk unannounced in an already-toxic cocktail of poisons. It’s better just to boycott these products.
Sources for this article include: