June 18, 1998
New Data on "Inert" Ingredients in Pesticides
A report released this week shows that over a quarter of the
chemicals used as "inert" ingredients in pesticide products
are hazardous to public health and the environment, and that
the toxicity of the majority of inert ingredients could not
be determined due to insufficient data. Some inerts currently
in use are known to cause cancer or genetic damage, harm the
nervous system or disrupt hormones.
The report, "Toxic Secrets: 'Inert' Ingredients in
Pesticides, 1987 - 1997," found that more than 2,300
chemicals are now listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) as inert ingredients in pesticide formulations
-- a 93% increase since 1987. "Toxic Secrets" was written by
the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP)
and released by Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR).
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act of
1972 (FIFRA), classifies pesticide ingredients into two
categories, "active" and "inert." Active ingredients are
designed to "destroy, prevent, repel or mitigate" a pest.
Inert ingredients are all other chemicals used to make the
pesticide product more potent or easier to use. There are
approximately 21,000 pesticide products on the U.S. market
today. In many cases, the active ingredient listed on the
label is only a small percentage of the total pesticide
According to the report, 610 chemicals used as inert
ingredients have been classified as hazardous by U.S. or
international agencies. For example, 20 are known or
suspected carcinogens, 187 are considered hazardous air and
water pollutants, and 12 have been classified as "extremely
hazardous." Cristobolite, a known carcinogen, is used as an
inert ingredient in over 1,500 pesticide products.
No government agency records the amount of inert ingredients
used each year in the United States. EPA, however, estimates
that approximately 32% of an average pesticide formulation is
active ingredient and that two billion pounds of active
ingredients are used annually. Based on these numbers, the
report estimated that 4.1 billion pounds of inert ingredients
are used throughout the U.S. each year.
At least 355 inert ingredients have been or are currently
being used as active ingredients in pesticide products. When
used as an active ingredient, the name of the chemical must
be listed on the label and the chemical is subject to a
battery of tests to determine its toxicity. However, when the
same chemical is used as an inert ingredient, no such
labeling and only limited studies are required.
"For ten years, EPA has chosen to ignore publicly available
information indicating the toxicity of numerous chemicals in
favor of a policy based on inertia, disinterest and secrecy,"
said Caroline Cox of NCAP and report co-author. "We demand
full disclosure of all pesticide ingredients today."
According to "Toxic Secrets," California data show that over
152 million pounds of inert ingredients were used in
agriculture and by licensed pest control applicators in the
state in 1995. Amounts of inert ingredients used can be
determined by analyzing pesticide product and active
ingredient use figures submitted to the state as part of
California's mandatory pesticide use reporting system.
Figures for inert ingredients in "over-the-counter"
pesticides sold to consumers, however, are not available.
These products often contain over 95% inert ingredients.
"Toxic Secrets" was co-authored by Sandra Marquardt, Caroline
Cox and Holly Knight.
The complete report is available at www.efn.org/~ncap.
Source: Toxic Secrets: 'Inert' Ingredients in Pesticides,
1987 - 1997, June 1998. NCAP/CPR press release, June 17,
Contact: NCAP, P.O. Box 1393, Eugene, OR 97440-1393; phone
(541) 344-5044; fax (541) 344-6923; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CPR, 49 Powell Street, Suite 530, San Francisco, CA 94102;
(415) 981-3939; fax (415) 981-2727; email email@example.com;
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
116 New Montgomery, #810, San Francisco, CA 94105
web site www.panna.org/panna/
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