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Pesticide manufacturers, EPA don't have to list most hazardous ingredients on pesticide labels, judge decides

Pesticide labels

(NaturalNews) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly denied a petition filed by environmental groups asking for better pesticide labeling. In March, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Environmental Health, Physicians for Social Responsibility and other advocacy groups sued the EPA for failing to act on the petitions that were filed more than eight years ago.

The 2006 petition[PDF] requested that the EPA require the labeling of 374 inert chemicals on pesticide bottles that were considered hazardous under other EPA environmental laws. Pesticides manufacturers are only required to label active ingredients, despite the fact that some so-called inert ingredients are far more toxic than active ones.

Take for example polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), an inert ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup that, when mixed with glyphosate, amplifies the toxic effect on human cells. A 2009 study published by the American Chemical Society concluded that POEA can kill human cells within 24 hours, especially embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

POEA was found to be more deadly than glyphosate.

EPA's policy allows chemical companies to hide perilous ingredients from consumers

Despite this research, the EPA denied the petition, and a California federal judge threw out the case in September. U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick ruled that the EPA had already complied with the plaintiff's terms when they agreed to remove 72 inert ingredients from their list of approved ingredients.

Although a step in the right direction, the EPA's proposal is inadequate in many regards, including the fact that there are still more than 300 other potentially harmful inert ingredients still approved for use. And the chemicals targeted by the EPA's proposal aren't even being used as inert ingredients anymore, such as rotenone, turpentine oil and nitrous oxide, according to eNews Park Forest.

Instead of rulemaking, a process that the EPA says will be a "long, complex and resource-intensive activity," the agency says it's developed an "alternative strategy" that will reduce the risks linked to hazardous inert ingredients.

EPA says they can't commit to rulemaking on labeling toxic inert ingredients on pesticide products

The EPA "will review inert ingredients currently listed for use in pesticides, update that list, establish criteria for prioritization, and select top candidate inert ingredients for further analysis and potential action."

Green groups voiced disappointment with the outcome after waiting three years for an answer. "The agency had really been looking at good changes for progress on the issue and has now just backed off," said Carolyn Cox with the Center for Environmental Health.

The EPA said they could not legally commit to any "particular outcome for rulemaking," reported Courthouse News Service.

U.S District Judge Orrick wrote:

That the EPA has indicated that it is considering (but not committing to) action which arguably parallels part of what the plaintiffs requested in their original petition does not mean that the EPA has retroactively granted the portion of the plaintiffs' petition that the EPA denied in 2009.

Plaintiffs are understandably frustrated that they may be no closer to fulfilling their goal eight years after petitioning the EPA to require that pesticide product labels list hazardous inert ingredients. But the EPA has unambiguously 'concluded' the 'matters' presented to it in plaintiffs' petitions, as required under the Administrative Procedures act, 5 U.S.C. 553(e), and I can offer the plaintiffs no relief. This matter is moot, a deficiency which cannot be cured by amendment.

Environmental advocates say knowing what type of chemicals we are exposed to is important, and doctors having that information can save lives and provide better treatment to victims of pesticide poisoning.

"Because pesticides are something we are all exposed to every day, there are a lot of compelling reasons to know the ingredients," pressed Cox. "This has been an important, controversial issue for decades.... We are definitely not going away."

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