States Petition Epa To Require Disclosure Of Secret Ingredients In Pesticides

A coalition of 14 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands today petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require pesticide manufacturers to disclose on the label of their products all hazardous ingredients. More disclosure will lead to greater consumer awareness of the potential health and environmental impacts of using pesticides.

EPA now requires that pesticide labels disclose only the product’s "active" ingredients; that is, those toxic materials that are intended to kill insects, weeds or other target organisms. However, pesticide products also contain many other "inert" ingredients. Although intended to preserve or improve the effectiveness of the active ingredients in particular pesticides, these "inert" ingredients often are toxic themselves. Although almost 400 chemicals used for this purpose have been found by EPA or other federal agencies to be hazardous to human health and the environment, EPA does not require them to be identified on pesticide labels. Current EPA regulations allows the identity of almost all "inert" ingredients to be omitted from the label based only on their function in the product, not on their health or environmental effects. States are pre-empted by federal law from requiring additional labeling for pesticides.

New York Attorney General Spitzer said: "Consumers have a right to know about toxic ingredients in consumer products, whether or not those ingredients are ‘active’ or ‘inert.’ There is no logical reason for EPA to mandate disclosure of those ingredients that harm pests but exempt from disclosure other ingredients that cause serious health and environmental problems."

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said: "We all have a right to know about hazardous chemicals contained in pesticide products we use, and the EPA has a duty to protect our health and the environment by requiring manufacturers to list these ingredients on product labels. EPA alone can and must take this long overdue step to protect the public, because States do not have this regulatory authority."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said: "The EPA is inexplicably misleading the public - allowing hazardous substances in pesticides to be identified simply as ‘inert’. The EPA’s failure to demand disclosure of these harmful substances is unconscionable. These chemicals should be disclosed to consumers so they are fully informed and empowered to protect themselves. Our demand that EPA immediately require that these chemicals are identified on pesticide labels is supported by science and common sense, as well as law."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said: "Consumers have the right to know what they’re exposing themselves and their children to when they use pesticides. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by requiring these toxic substances to appear on product labels."

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran said: "If you are buying a pesticide, and there is a hazardous chemical in that product, you have every right to know that."

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said: "Pesticides are toxic by design, and EPA should require manufacturers to identify all ingredients that pose a threat to our health and the environment. Although most consumers might think ‘inert’ means harmless, hundreds of so-called inert ingredients that manufacturers don’t have to disclose are actually hazardous. To allow consumers to be misled in this way is unconscionable. Once again, it seems like a concerted effort by the states is the only way we can get the Bush Administration’s attention on the environment."

New Jersey Attorney General Zulima V. Faber said: "Under current EPA labeling requirements, a pesticide ingredient must be disclosed only if it harmful to pests, not if it is harmful to people and the environment. EPA’s rules are at complete odds with common sense and public health."

New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said: "There is a common misconception that inert ingredients are inactive and do not pose any harm. That is not the case and the public has a right to know. While the inert ingredients in a pesticide many pose no harm to pests, such substances can pose health or environmental hazards. Sound public policy should lean toward full disclosure."

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch said: "The word ‘inert’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘safe.’ One of the chief goals of good government is to make the public aware of information that is necessary to protect the public health. The people of the State of Rhode Island have a right to know what kinds of chemicals are being used in their homes, in their yards, and on their food so that they can make better and more informed decisions to protect their health and the health of their children."

Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy A. Lautenschlager said: "In this day and age, how can the EPA allow pesticide companies to label hazardous chemicals contained in pesticide products as ‘inert’ ingredients? These chemicals have been shown to be hazardous and are anything but ‘inert’ As a result of EPA’s current policies, scores of pesticide product labels are deceptive and misleading to unwitting pesticide users who rely on the assumption that these products are safe because they are regulated by the EPA. This dangerous charade has to stop."

Currently, so-called "inert" ingredients - which make up as much as 99% of many common pesticides, are kept secret and are not listed on the pesticide labels. The chemicals used as "inerts" include many that EPA has officially determined, under other statutory programs, to be hazardous or toxic. Among these are "inert" ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer, central nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, and birth defects, as well as a variety of short term health and ecological impacts. A consumer would never know about their presence in consumer products, under current labeling requirements.

The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and 21 other environmental and public health organizations also filed a similar petition with the EPA today.

The petition to the Environmental Protection Agency is available on the New York Attorney General’s website at

The petition is being handled by Peter Lehner, Chief of the New York Environmental Protection Bureau, and Michael Surgan, the bureau’s Chief Scientist.


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