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Do You Know What's In That Pesticide?

Updated on January 27, 2010

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

In 2001 an environmental advocate group and several state attorneys general petitioned the EPA to publish a public list of all inert ingredients in pesticides and herbicides.  The EPA said no, and when that decision was challenged in 2004 a federal judge upheld the ruling.  Now almost ten years later they've changed their minds.  The EPA has decided that we should know what's in those products.  Finally, the consumer will be able to decide for himself whether these ingredients are acceptable.

Ingredients termed inert are all of those that don't actually kill a weed or a pest.  There are nearly 4000 of these anonymous ingredients in our pest control products.  By aware that inert is not synonymous with harmless.  As a matter of fact 374 of the ingredients defined as inert are actually listed as harmful ingredients under other regulations and laws.  It's possible that your pesticide contains sulfuric acid, toluene, or even formaldehyde.  All of these are ingredients that have proven to be toxic.  Companies that manufacture pesticides must provide a full list of ingredients to the EPA, so the environmental watch dogs have always known that about these chemicals.  They just didn't deem the information important enough to share with consumers. 

Debra Edwards is the director of pesticide programs for the EPA.  She says it could take as long as a year to draft the new regulations, and the EPA still isn't sure how they might be structured.  It's possible that all 4000 ingredients will be on the list of unveiled chemicals, or they might only require chemicals known to be harmful to be on the list.  It is hoped that if pesticide companies are forced to reveal a full list of product ingredients that they might make an effort to replace some of the more harmful ones.

Jay Vroom, CEO of CropLife America, claims that he’s “just baffled” by the EPA’s ruling. He feels that they are guilty of “unbridled rhetoric” in this case. That’s quite a claim for a guy who works for an organization that lobbies our government in favor of multi-national pesticide and biotech corporations.


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    • JoieG profile image

      JoieG 8 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Most assuredly. ;)

    • William R. Wilson profile image

      William R. Wilson 8 years ago from Knoxville, TN

      It's all about the money...

      Nice hub.