PFAs Found in Widely Used Insecticide
Environmental groups call on EPA and Maryland to find and eliminate source
March 26, 2021, Washington, D.C. — An insecticide widely used in public mosquito control contains high levels of toxic“forever chemicals,” according to test results ordered by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Maryland Pesticide Education Network (MPEN). Because per-and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) do not break down in the environment, their presence in pesticides represents a new, uncontrolled pollution source. PFAS are associated with liver damage, thyroid disease, developmental issues, reduced fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer. This pesticide is used by Maryland and other states in their mosquito control programs.
“These chemicals are not supposed to be in this insecticide,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement attorney, pointing out that EPA is supposed to regulate pesticide content. “EPA is failing in its job to protect public health and the environment and needs to immediately test all pesticides for the presence of PFAS.”
PEER and MPEN notified EPA, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in a letter that a sample of the pesticide Permanone 30-30, used by MDA for the state’s annual mosquito control program, contains 3,500 parts per trillion (ppt) of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), one of thousands of PFAS. The sample also contains approximately 630 ppt of another PFAS, hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), a replacement for PFOA trademarked as GenX.
EPA currently has a lifetime health advisory of 70 ppt for PFOA. The Member State Committee (MSC) of the European Chemicals Agency has identified HFPO-DA, its salts and acyl halides as substances of very high concern due to their probable serious effects on human health and the environment.
“The presence of PFAS in pesticides raises significant environmental and health concerns,” said MPEN Executive Director Ruth Berlin. “Spraying millions of acres with a chemical that does not break down in the environment, and for which there is no safe means of disposal, is beyond nonsensical. In addition, combining it with Permanone, an endocrine-disrupting pesticide linked to cancer and the exacerbation of respiratory illnesses, is unconscionable. We implore EPA and the state of Maryland to halt use of mosquito eradicating pesticides this season until they have tested all such products for PFAS.”
Earlier tests by PEER found PFAS in another widely used insecticide, Anvil 10-10. After confirming those results, EPA asked states with existing stock of the product to discontinue use, and the manufacturer voluntarily stopped all shipments of the contaminated pesticide. These new findings of PFAS in Permanone 30-30 are problematic because:
- PFOA, one of the chemicals, was supposed to have been phased out by major manufacturers due to growing recognition of its health dangers;
- The groups only tested for 36 PFAS out of the more than 9,000 on EPA’s inventory, so it is not known if other PFAS might be in Permanone 30-30; and
- It is not known whether PFAS were ingredients added by the manufacturer or a supplier, or whether the contamination occurred in storage or transport containers.
Besides EPA conducting its own testing of Permanone 30-30 and its storage containers, the groups want Maryland to cease the use of Permanone 30-30 and terminate its use by private mosquito control companies in the state. The groups also want Maryland to ensure that any pesticide is properly tested by EPA or the state and shown to not contain any PFAS, including from an adjuvant or container contamination. Pesticide manufacturers should be required to test all their products for PFAS and make their findings public.
The Smart on Pesticides Maryland coalition, spearheaded by the Maryland Pesticide Education Network, works to protect Marylanders and the natural systems we depend upon from the toxic impacts of pesticides. The coalition includes 108 organizations, and institutions representing communities, businesses, health care providers, farmers, environmentalists, waterkeepers, interfaith congregants as well as environmental justice, public health, and wildlife advocates.
Contact: Ruth Berlin, Maryland Pesticide Education Network: firstname.lastname@example.org or 410.693.7319