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 "Inert" Ingredients in Pesticides

Ingredients in Pesticides NOT on the Label

  You may think you can determine how hazardous a product is by reading the label. Forget about reading the label on a bottle of pesticides and making judgment calls. Only “active” ingredients are listed on the label. There are over 1,700 “inert”, ingredients which are not listed on the label. Inert does not mean harmless. Inert simply means an ingredient is not the primary chemical used to kill the bugs. The manufacturer, not the government or EPA, decides which chemicals to consider inert. By law, inert ingredients are considered trade secrets2. Almost 99% of the ingredients may be listed as “inert”. Many of these are more harmful than the active ingredients. Most have not even been tested for potential health effects.

Inert ingredients may be used for delivery, emulsifying and for quick, knock-down effects. Common inert ingredients include toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. These are central nervous system depressants and carcinogens.  In a freedom of information Act lawsuit, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) obtained from the EPA a list of 1,400 of the 2,000 substances currently being used as inert ingredients in pesticides. These included Chicago sludge, hazardous waste, asbestos, and some banned chemicals such as DDT3. Remember Vietnam? A component of Agent Orange, 2, 4-D, is used in about 1,500 lawn care products4. Because many people have a misleading impression of the term "inert ingredient," believing it to indicate harmless ingredients, the EPA permits and encourages manufacturers to substitute the more neutral term "Other ingredients" on their pesticide labels5.  How many pesticide manufacturers have chosen to do this?

Sometimes pesticides are mixed in the tank on the back of the truck of the pest exterminator. The pest exterminator may have had some product left over from the previous job or added new and different chemicals to what was leftover. He may think he’s doing you a favor by giving you something better (a more toxic brew) than what you asked for. The exterminator knows not what he has done. A recent study found that combining pesticides can make them up to 1,600 times more potent (toxic) 6.  
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