Spitzer Calls On Feds To List Secret Ingredients In Pesticides

Attorney General Spitzer today called on the federal government to require that product labels list the secret "inert" ingredients that can make up 95 percent or more of pesticide products.

Separately, Spitzer praised Gov. George Pataki for signing the Pesticides Neighbor Notification Law. He also cited the dedication and hard work of the bill's sponsors, Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli and Senator Carl Marcellino, for their work on the new law that allows county governments to adopt local pesticide notification laws, and also requires schools and daycare centers to provide information about pesticide use to all parents. Five major counties have already committed to passing local notification ordinances.

Spitzer noted, however, that the advance notice of pesticide use provided by the new Neighbor Notification law may be undermined by a failure of the federal government to require pesticide manufacturers to provide label information about "inert" as well as active ingredients in their products.

An Attorney General's report released today, "The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk," calls attention to health risks posed by "inert" ingredients in pesticides.

"Citizens and parents have the right to know about pesticides being used in their neighborhoods, schools and daycare centers," said Spitzer. "However, the federal government allows pesticide manufacturers to keep secret the identity of ingredients that generally make up the bulk of pesticide products. As a result, the public is kept in the dark about what is really being used and is not able to adequately assess possible health risks."

Spitzer's report explains that while federal regulators require pesticide manufacturers to disclose on the label the identity of "active ingredients," manufacturers are allowed to withhold the identity of so-called "inert" or "other" ingredients.

While people may believe that inert ingredients are harmless -- as the term suggests -- in fact, many ingredients used as inerts are actually toxic. The inert ingredients in some pesticide products may actually be the active ingredients in other pesticides.

On the basis of market surveys in 1990, 1997 and 1999, the report finds that:


  • 72 percent of pesticide products available to consumers contain over 95 percent of so-called inert ingredients;


  • Fewer than 10 percent of pesticide products list any inert ingredients on their labels;


  • More than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are hazardous pollutants in federal environmental statutes governing air and water quality; and,


  • Of a 1995 list of inert ingredients, 394 chemicals were in fact listed as active ingredients in other pesticide products.