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US agency claims there are 'too many' pesticide formulas to check them all for toxins: 'Disappointing but not surprising'

"It's unfortunate that they want to live in this loophole."

“It’s unfortunate that they want to live in this loophole."

Photo Credit: iStock

A nonprofit advocacy organization that focuses on food production technologies, public health, and the environment is fighting to get the Environmental Protection Agency to address a major loophole in the way it regulates pesticides — so far, with little positive movement.

What is happening?

Center for Food Safety (CFS) wants the EPA to reexamine its rule that does not require the agency to account for "inactive ingredients," also called inert ingredients, when deciding whether a pesticide is safe to use on crops.

But there are 4,000 inert ingredients approved for use by the EPA, many of which may be harmful to humans and wildlife. These include substances like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and many others.

CFS has tried to get the EPA to address the issue with a petition, which was ignored, and then with a lawsuit to force the agency to respond to the petition. The EPA eventually responded that "too many pesticide formulas exist for the agency to check them all for safety," according to the Guardian.

Why is it concerning?

The EPA has language on its website that explains that PFAS "do not [break down] in the environment, can build up in living things, and can adversely impact human health and the environment." However, the agency does not currently take these substances into account when deciding if a pesticide is safe.

"The idea that we're not assessing the actual chemicals that farmers spray is kind of ridiculous," Bill Freese, science director at CFS, told the Guardian.

CFS senior attorney Sylvia Wu called the decision by the EPA not to review its rules "disappointing but not surprising," adding that "it's unfortunate that they want to live in this loophole."

What is being done about it?

Wu told the Guardian that public health groups are "analyzing their legal options" and may bring another lawsuit against the EPA to strengthen its rules and regulations around the approval of pesticides.

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