Past Pesticides Each day Information Weblog »Weblog Archive PFAS ‘Ceaselessly Chemical compounds’ present in mosquito pesticides elevating issues about widespread contamination
(Beyond Pesticides, Dec. 2, 2020) PFAS (per and polyfluorinated alkyls) are found in a commonly used mosquito pesticide called Anvil 10 + 10, based on independent testing by a monitoring group and state regulators, according to the Boston Globe. PFAS is a large family of nearly 5,000 chemicals that may never break down in the environment and have been linked to cancer, liver damage, birth and development problems, decreased fertility, and asthma. The chemicals are already disproportionately contaminating people in paint communities, and there is evidence that they may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. While many are familiar with PFAS for its use in nonstick cookware, electrical cable insulation, personal care products, food packaging, textiles, and other consumer products, its presence in an already toxic pesticide is alarming. Perhaps most worryingly, neither manufacturers nor regulators have a good understanding of how exactly PFAS chemicals got into pesticide products.
“This is an issue that gets to the heart of our federal pesticide regulation system,” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director, Beyond Pesticides. “The results make it imperative that the EPA review and disclose full pesticide formulations before exposing the public to unknown hazards.”
The Watchdog Group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) ran a preliminary test on Anvil 10 + 10 this fall that found the presence of PFAS in a 2.5 gallon jug. “Our tests found that Anvil 10 + 10 contains approximately 250 parts per trillion (ppt) perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and 260-500 ppt hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), a GenX replacement for PFOA,” the group wrote in a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state regulatory agencies. In light of the results, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection initiated its own tests directly on 55 gallon drums of the product. Not only was PFAS found, some of the discoveries exceeded safety limits recently set by the state for drinking water. Although the EPA does not currently regulate PFAS, it has established a lifetime health recommendation for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water of 70 ppt.
Why should PFAS be in a pesticide formulation? The chemicals can act well as dispersants, surfactants, antifoams, or other pesticide adjuvants designed to enhance the effectiveness of the active ingredient. The EPA is adding PFAS chemicals to its Inert Finder database, and a PEER press release indicates that many companies have applied for patents on pesticide formulations containing PFAS.
Clarke, the maker of Anvil 10 + 10, denied to the Boston Globe that PFAS was deliberately introduced, but stated that contamination may have occurred during production or packaging. In the past, there have been significant contamination problems with pesticide formulations. DuPont faced a number of lawsuits in the 1990s and early 2000s after its benlate fungicide was contaminated with the toxic herbicide atrazine. Perhaps most infamous was the Vietnam-era rainbow herbicide orange, which was heavily contaminated with another “forever chemical” dioxin, TCDD (2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzodioxin), a by-product of the pesticide’s manufacturing process. While the active ingredients in Agent Orange were very dangerous, it was dioxin that caused terrible birth defects that plague Vietnam to this day.
According to the Federal Law on Pesticides, contamination must be reported when registering a product if it is “toxicologically significant”. It is unclear whether PFAS has been tested for contamination or has been reported to EPA as product formulation data is considered confidential business information by the agency.
Beyond Pesticides has worked to improve public transparency regarding pesticide formulations, as it is precisely this type of secrecy that is causing the public to lose confidence in federal regulators. The organization, along with other environmental and health groups, sued the EPA for demanding disclosure of full pesticide formulations. After the EPA initially stated it would proceed, it reversed course and decided to disclose only 72 inert ingredients that were claimed to be no longer used in product formulations. Despite claims that PFAS is not in pesticide formulations, it was not on the agency’s list.
The EPA’s statement to the Boston Globe does little to allay concerns. “There are significant unanswered questions about the data currently available,” Dave Deegan, a spokesman for the EPA’s New England offices, told Globe. “The EPA will continue to work closely with and assist the state on this matter. Aggressive control of PFAS remains an important, active and ongoing priority for the EPA. “
According to PEER, locations in at least 25 states have used Anvil 10 + 10 as part of their mosquito repellent program.
“In Massachusetts, communities are struggling to remove PFAS from their drinking water supplies while we may be dumping PFAS from the sky and the streets at the same time,” said Kyla Bennett, science policy director at PEER, a researcher and attorney who previously worked with EPA who arranged the tests. “The frightening thing is that we don’t know how many insecticides, herbicides, or even disinfectants PFAS contain.”
It is likely that these initial tests have only just begun to scratch the surface of the type of contamination present in pesticide formulations. To address this issue and achieve publicly available, full product testing and disclosures, strong federal leadership is required. We can go even further – and work to eliminate the need to register toxic pesticides by promoting practices to control organic and environmental pests. To do this, however, the EPA must stop taking risks to people’s health in order to fuel corporate profits. Help tell President-elect Biden that we need an environmentalist to run the EPA with full environmental credentials and a vision that includes a dramatic transition away from hazardous chemicals and environmentally harmful practices.
All unassigned positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: PEER, Boston Globe