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Public Comment Needed for Inert Ingredient Disclosure Guidelines

(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requesting public comment on options for disclosing inert ingredients in pesticides. In this anticipated rulemaking, EPA is seeking ideas for greater disclosure of inert ingredient identities. Inert ingredients, which can be highly toxic, are part of the end use product formulation, but not defined as active against the target organism. Revealing inert ingredients will help consumers make informed decisions and may lead to better protection of public health and the environment.

“Consumers deserve to know the identities of ingredients in pesticide formulations, including inert ingredients,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “Disclosing inert ingredients in pesticide products, especially those considered to be hazardous, will empower consumers and pesticide users to make more informed choices.”

Public disclosure is one way to discourage the use of hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide formulations. The agency is inviting comment on various regulatory and voluntary steps to achieve this broader disclosure. Pesticide manufacturers usually disclose their inert ingredients only to EPA. Currently, EPA evaluates the safety of all ingredients in a product’s formulation when determining whether the pesticide should be registered.

On October 1, 2009, EPA responded to two petitions; one by Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and a second by several state attorneys general, that designated more than 350 inert pesticide ingredients as hazardous. The petitioners asked EPA to require that these ingredients be identified on the labels of products that include them in their formulations. In its response to petitioners, the agency said, “EPA agrees with the petitioners that the public should have a means to learn the identities of hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide product formulations. The agency believes that increased transparency could lead to better informed decision making and better informed pesticide use.” It continues, “EPA will also be discussing ideas to increase disclosure of all inert ingredients identities to an even greater degree than requested by the petitions.”

Despite their name, “inert” ingredients are neither chemically, biologically or toxicologically inert. In general, inert ingredients are minimally tested, however, many are known to state, federal and international agencies to be hazardous to human health. A 2009 study finds that an inert ingredient in the popular herbicide RoundUp, polyethoxylated tallowamine or POEA, is more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself – a finding the researchers call “astonishing.” POEA is a surfactant, or detergent, derived from animal fat. It is added to Roundup and other herbicides to help them penetrate plants’ surfaces, making the weed killer more effective.

Take Action: Submit your comments by going to www.regulation.gov and using docket identification (ID) number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0635. Comments must be received on or before February 22, 2010.

Source: EPA News Release


One Response to “Public Comment Needed for Inert Ingredient Disclosure Guidelines”

  1. 1
    D. Maier Says:

    As a parent and a teacher of young children, I am dismayed at the lack of real oversight and full disclosure of pesticide ingredients.
    There are over 350 different inert ingredients in pesticides that are not included on product labels, despite the fact that they are known to be toxic. These ingredients typically make up over 95% of the product. However, only the active ingredients, which comprise the remainder, are listed. Many companies have used the “trade secret” loophole to make misleading claims based only on the active ingredients. For example, Chevron advertised one product line as organic and naturally occurring, which was not the case for the undisclosed inert ingredients. I believe it is extremely important to be aware of all ingredients present in products, especially pesticides, which may have a profound impact on human and environmental health. Without this information, consumers will remain unaware of potential health hazards to their family, and this is unacceptable.

    Our children are our nation’s future, and all substances that are harmful to them must be transparently and stringently dealt with. The next generation must not be held hostage to the profit motives of pesticide manufacturers.

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