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The Environmental Protection Agency has removed dozens of “inert” ingredients from a list of approved chemicals for pesticides, a move to appease environmental groups who say the ingredients may be hazardous.
The 72 ingredients are commonly mixed in pesticide formulations with the active ingredient that kills weeds, insects, fungi and other pests. A federal judge ruled last June that the agency was not legally required to disclose the chemicals ( Ctr. For Envtl. Health v. McCarthy, 2016 BL 209810, N.D. Cal., No. 15-CV-02939-WHO, 6/29/16).
The Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides and Physicians for Social Responsibility sued the EPA in 2006 to force the agency to disclose more than 300 inert ingredients on pesticide labels. The lawsuit spurred the agency to start the process to regulate the ingredients (78 Fed. Reg. 68,215).
But the EPA reversed course in 2014 and decided that it would instead encourage voluntary approaches, such as helping pesticide manufacturers to use less hazardous inert ingredients and lowering the number of allowable chemicals.
The groups sued again the following year, identifying 371 inert ingredients considered hazardous under various statutes and authorities, including the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (42 U.S.C. § 1102(a)) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (40 C.F.R. 166). Many of the ingredients have been deemed carcinogenic or possibly carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
In July, the court upheld the EPA’s decision not to require pesticide manufacturers to disclose all of their ingredients.
“These groups asked the agency to issue a rule requiring disclosure of 371 inert ingredients found in pesticide products. Instead, EPA will evaluate potential risks of inert ingredients and reduce risks, as appropriate,” the EPA said in a statement.
The removal of the chemicals is not likely to significantly affect pesticide manufacturers, Ray McAllister, senior director of regulatory policy for the trade association Crop Life America, told Bloomberg BNA.
The listed ingredients are no longer used in products. If companies wanted to include the inert ingredients in a new or existing pest control product in the future, they could still go through an approval process to have one of the 72 ingredients added in a formulation.
Earthjustice, who represented plaintiffs against the EPA in the litigation, said in a statement that the organization is happy that the agency is making progress in addressing the risks associated with the ingredients, but that the decision is unlikely to help people avoid the chemicals.
“EPA has recognized for years that consumers and users of pesticide products need more information about product ingredients in order to keep themselves and families safe, and in order to make better choices about whether to buy a particular product, and when and where to use it if they do,” said Yana Garcia, an environmental attorney at Earthjustice.
“But EPA took action to remove these 72 ingredients because they are no longer in use. We hope that EPA can continue its efforts to remove ingredients in pesticides that it knows are toxic and still in use in hundreds of products across the country.”
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