The Environmental Protection Agency said Sept. 30 it is moving forward with a plan to require the disclosure of the identities of all inert ingredients in pesticides, including those that are potentially hazardous, and it anticipates publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register “within the next few months.” EPA issued the announcement the same day that it responded to petitions, both dated Aug. 1, 2006, from the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and the attorneys general of 14 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands calling for disclosure on pesticide labels of more than 350 inert ingredients they claim are hazardous. Those ingredients include napthalene, ethylbenzene, allyl alcohol, and chloroacetic acid, according to the petitions. The petitions were addressed to Steven Johnson, then EPA's administrator.
Public should know, EPA agrees
In its response, EPA said it agreed that “the public should have a means to learn the identities of hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide formulations.” EPA said in the Sept. 30 announcement, “This increased transparency will assist consumers and users of pesticides in making informed decisions and will better protect public health and the environment.” Pesticide manufacturers typically disclose their inert ingredients only to the agency, it said. “One way of discouraging the use of the more hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide formulations is by making their identities public,” the agency said. It also said that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act supports “increased transparency” regarding these ingredients.
Notice will discuss disclosure ideas
EPA said it will discuss ideas for greater disclosure of inert ingredient identities, including those associated with various hazards, in the Federal Register notice. EPA said it is also considering voluntary initiatives to encourage industry to disclose inert ingredients. The agency said it now evaluates the safety of all active and inert ingredients in a product's formulation when determining whether the pesticide should be registered. Inert ingredients used in pesticides include solvents that allow the pesticide's active ingredient to penetrate a plant's outer surface, and preservatives to extend shelf life or to protect the pesticide from degradation in sunlight.
Registration no guarantee of safety
The petition by the attorneys general said, “EPA's registration of a pesticide product is not an assurance of safety and thus no substitute for disclosure.” The petition said that “absent an assurance of safety, it falls to the general public to assess those risks and their willingness to accept them.” The petition was signed by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Northwest coalition petition said that “it is within EPA's authority, not to mention its realm of responsibility, to require the identification of dangerous inert ingredients on pesticide labels.” The three-year-old petition asked EPA to “issue a determination within 60 days” to amend its labeling regulations to require listing hazardous inert ingredients.