By Michael Gormley, Associated Press Writer | August 1, 2006
ALBANY, N.Y. –Fourteen states including Connecticut moved on Tuesday to force the Bush administration to require manufacturers to disclose even “inert” ingredients that the state officials say pose an undisclosed health hazard in pesticides.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency requires “active” toxic ingredients that kill insects and weeds to be listed on labels now. Inert ingredients make the active chemicals more effective.
“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,” said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has taken the lead for the states asking the EPA to expand the labeling requirement.
“The EPA is inexplicably misleading the public,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who like Spitzer is a Democrat.
Inert ingredients make up as much as 99 percent of a pesticide, the state officials said. Inert ingredients are known or suspected causes of cancer, nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage and birth defects as well as environmental damage.
“The word `inert’ doesn’t necessarily mean `safe,'” said Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch.
“The EPA has a duty to protect our health and the environment by requiring manufacturers to list these ingredients,” said California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
EPA press secretary Jennifer Wood said the agency has fulfilled its duty to provide safe and clear labeling.
“Through testing, regulation and labeling, EPA ensures that products, which include both active and inert ingredients, are safe for the public and the environment,” Wood said in a written statement.
The EPA’s pesticide regulations require registration and approved labels on all pesticide products, she said. The EPA does not register pesticide without ensuring that it will not pose a risk when used according to its directions.
The formal request for requiring labeling changes — which could precede a lawsuit — is being sought by attorneys general from New York, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. The Virgin Islands also joined the action. The petition includes 40 pages of scientific data and legal precedent that the state officials say support their case. The petition gives the EPA 60 days to agree or to assess the chemicals.
“We received the petition today,” Woods said. “We need to review it and we’ll respond in an expeditious manner.”
The state officials seek to have the inert chemicals listed with a caution that they “may pose a hazard to man or the environment.”
They note that the EPA alone has the authority to force the change. The petition quotes a previous EPA statement that “a database that is inadequate to support risk assessment deprives people who are exposed to a chemical their right to know the hazards/risks that may be posed by that product.”
The state officials argue the EPA already requires inert ingredients to be listed on nonprescription drugs, foods and cosmetics.
“We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by requiring these toxic substances to appear on product labels,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Spitzer spokeswoman Judith Enck said the EPA in 2002 decided to take no action on New York’s request to detail inert ingredients. She said there have been numerous less formal efforts to persuade the EPA since 1998, but “there is a fundamental disagreement on policy. The proper procedure is to file a petition with the arguments,” she said.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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