STATES SEEK LABELING OF ALL PESTICIDE INGREDIENTS
Four Attorneys General File Federal Lawsuit
to Require Full Pesticide Labeling
For Immediate Release
February 16, 2001
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer,
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal,
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly and
Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho today sued
the federal Environmental Protection Agency for
failing to act on an essential public health
petition relating to pesticides labeling.
The Attorneys General requested three years ago
that the federal agency require pesticide
manufacturers to disclose all ingredients in
pesticides on product labels. Currently, so-called
"inert" ingredients - which make up as much as
99-percent of many over-the-counter pesticides -
are kept secret and are not listed on product
labels. Hundreds of the 2,300 "inert" ingredients
registered with the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) are known to be harmful to human
"Consumers have a right to know about all the
ingredients in the pesticides they use around
their homes," said Spitzer. "Full ingredient
disclosure will allow consumers to make informed
decisions about which products to use or not use.
Federal regulations rightly require detailed label
information on all ingredients in food, cosmetics
and other products. The same standard should also
apply to pesticides, which are toxic products that
are widely used in our homes, schools and directly
on our food."
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
said: "The feds simply have been irresponsible in
abdicating their moral and legal authority.
Keeping consumers ignorant about these ingredients
is unconscionable and intolerable. In products
used around the house, within easy touch and taste
of children, disclosure of these poisons can
literally be a matter of life or death, whether
they are called 'active' or 'inert.'"
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said:
"Most people would equate the term 'inert' with
harmless. But allowing pesticide manufacturers
to label risky chemicals that way is dangerously
misleading. The fact is that pesticides contain
potentially dangerous ingredients, and consumers
have a right to know what those ingredients are
to protect them from unnecessary risk."
Janice Adair, Director of the Division of
Environmental Health in Alaska, said: "Requiring
that the labels on consumer products clearly state
the ingredients protects public health and safety.
Pesticides in general cause a great deal of public
concern, and the fact that some of the most toxic
ingredients are not listed on the label is
The EPA requires that pesticide labels disclose
only the product's active ingredients; that is,
those toxic materials that kill the insect or weed
or other target organism. However, pesticides also
contain many other ingredients, called "inert,"
which deliver the active ingredient to the target.
Many of these may also be toxic, but the
government does not require them to be identified
on pesticide product labels. States are pre-empted
by the federal government from requiring such
labeling for pesticides.
A number of inert ingredients, such as toluene and
ethylbenzene, are identified as "hazardous" under
other federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act,
the Clean Air Act and the Superfund Law.
Many inert ingredients are known or suspected to
pose serious health risks, including cancer, central
nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage
and birth defects, as well as a variety of short-
term health and ecological impacts.
Three years ago, New York, Connecticut, Alaska,
Massachusetts and other states, submitted a federal
petition to the EPA to require full product labeling
of inert ingredients.
Rather than responding to the petition, the EPA
referred the matter to two advisory committees,
neither of which have a definite timetable to
resolve this pressing issue. After three years,
no recommendations have been made to EPA and
none are expected in the foreseeable future.
"It is clear that the process EPA has put in place
is not going anywhere and should not be a substitute
for the agency ruling on a three-year-old petition
that is very important to protect public health,"
said New York Attorney General Spitzer.
The lawsuit filed by the four Attorneys General
charges that the EPA has unreasonably and
illegally delayed action on a vital health matter
and seeks a decision on the three-year-old
petition within 60 days.
A similar suit was filed in October 2000 by the
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.
Norma Grier, executive director of the organization,
said: "This action by the Attorneys General helps
consumers across the country fight for the right
to know about what's in these dangerous products."
The Attorneys General filed their lawsuit today
in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
For more background information on inert ngredients,
see the New York Attorney General's website at:
www.oag.state.ny.us for a May 2000 report,
"The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing
The lawsuit is being handled by New York Assistant
Attorney General Karen Kaufmann, Chief Scientist
Michael Surgan, PhD, Connecticut Assistant
Attorney General Janet Brooks, Massachusetts
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg, and
Alaska Assistant Attorney General Christopher
Department of Law
New York, NY 10271
Department of Law
The State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
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