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The danger of inert chemicals in pesticides

As an agricultural producer, Georgia ranks fifteenth in the nation, leading the U.S. in production of broilers, peanuts, spring onions and pecans. Georgia’s subtropical climate is perfectly suited for an array of crops, but also ideal for pests. Adding to the pest problem are the international seaports and airports, which bring in additional harmful species.

Pesticide categories

To combat crop damaging insects, weeds and fungi, farmers rely on harsh pesticides. The pesticides fall into three main categories:

  • Insecticides to target bugs that feed on crops.
  • Herbicides to target invasive plants.
  • Fungicides to target fungi.

Label, sale and usage requirements

Pesticides contain active and inert ingredients. The active ingredients are the controlling ingredients that prevent, repel or destroy pests. Any other added substances are inert ingredients.

Although the inert ingredients make up the bulk of the product, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not require pesticide manufacturers to publish the inert ingredients on product labels. Inert ingredients qualify as confidential business information, akin to a trade secret. However, pesticides often contain inert ingredients classified as hazardous pollutants in federal statutes.

Inert does not mean nontoxic

The EPA acknowledges that inert does not mean non-toxic and that invert ingredients can be harmful to the environment and humans. Before allowing the sale of a product in the U.S., the EPA tests it for potential adverse effects on nontarget organisms. But the testing does not always take into consideration the adverse effects of low dose long-term exposure. The EPA sets exposure thresholds, which vary based on the intended use of the pesticide, studies have demonstrated a link between pesticides and cancer, autism, and attention deficit disorder.

State pesticide regulation

Georgia legislature passed the Georgia Pesticide Control Act of 1976 to protect the environment and human life through pesticide regulation. Manufacturers who wish to sell pesticides in the state must supply usage and ingredient information. Farmers and other pesticide users must use the product as intended. Failure to comply with the Act is a misdemeanor.

While farmers continue to rely on pesticide use for agricultural production, pesticides can harm the air and water quality in throughout the state and elsewhere as the winds and currents carry the pesticides further away from the fields they originated in.

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