EPA Mulls Disclosure of Pesticide Inert Ingredients

"For nearly two-thirds of a century, up to 99% of the ingredients in any given pesticide product have legally been hidden from public view, even though many are known to be toxic. The primary impetus has been to protect industry trade secrets. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering what it calls a 'sea change' in policy, possibly requiring public disclosure of 100% of a pesticide product’s ingredients.

Many factions have a stake in the outcome. Claudia Polsky, deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice’s Environment Section, says the inability to publicly disclose ingredient information has left California unable to assure its residents that pesticides the state wants to use for various purposes are safe, resulting in lawsuits, injunctions, and protracted negotiations with pesticide manufacturers. Susan Smolinske, director of the Regional Poison Control Center at the DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan, says, 'We get calls where the lack of [ingredient] information results in a delay in treatment. It does cripple us.' And Aimee Code, water quality coordinator for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, says all ingredients need to be on the label because '[consumers] make choices based on that.'

But Ray McAllister, senior director of regulatory policy for the pesticide industry group CropLife America, says he’d like to keep the situation 'fairly close to where it is now.' He points out that each formulated pesticide product is subject to a battery of acute toxicity tests whose results are reflected in the cautions, usage directions, and first aid statements on product labels."

Robert Weinhold reports for Environmental Health Perspectives in the April 2010 issue.

Source: EHP, 04/06/2010