For Immediate Release - October 01, 2009

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley Applauds the EPA's Decision to Initiate an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Require the Disclosure of So Called "Inert" Ingredients on Pesticide

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that the agency is initiating an "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" (ANPR) and will be seeking broad public input in amending its regulations governing the labeling of pesticides to ensure that consumers are aware of all of the potentially hazardous chemicals in pesticides, including so called "inert" ingredients that currently do not have to appear on pesticide labels. In 2006, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, with 14 other states, petitioned the EPA to require that hazardous ingredients be identified on pesticide labels. The EPA is considering regulatory action as well as pursuing voluntary initiatives to achieve broader disclosure.

"Pesticides are toxic by design. We are pleased that with the EPA's announcement that the agency plans to issue rules requiring pesticide ingredient transparency, our efforts to press the EPA to require manufacturers to identify ingredients that pose a threat to our health and the environment appear to be paying off," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. "Although most consumers might think 'inert' means harmless, hundreds of so-called inert ingredients that manufacturers don't have to disclose are actually hazardous. We really cannot allow consumers to be misled in this way."

The 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 targeted 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 the EPA or other federal agencies to be hazardous to human health and the environment, the EPA does not require them to be identified on pesticide labels. Current EPA regulations allow 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.

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 the 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. Under current labeling requirements, a consumer would not know about the presence of these ingredients in consumer products.

In its response to the States' petition issued yesterday, the EPA confirmed that it is submitting its draft Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget, and said that it expects the ANPR to be issued by the end of this year. The Attorney General's Office will be monitoring the progress of the Advance Notice, and plans to participate fully in the rulemaking process.

Massachusetts and the following states filed the initial petition, on August 1, 2006: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and the U.S. Virgin Islands.