Sunday, March 9, 2008

Inert Is Not Inert Anymore


1. Unable to move or act.
2. Sluggish in action or motion; lethargic. See synonyms at inactive.
3. Chemistry. Not readily reactive with other elements; forming few or no chemical compounds.
4. Having no pharmacologic or therapeutic action.

[Latin iners, inert- : in-, not; see in–1 + ars, skill.]

Seems like a straightforward definition, but if you care about being poisoned, maybe you should care about this:

Ingredients can be listed as "inert" if they do not have an action pertinent to stated action of the product. This means that an herbicide that kills plants can have in its "inert" ingredients pesticides that kill pests, or you, or your kids and pets. Or inversely, a pesticide to kill a specific pest (like we're not all linked!) could wipe out all the food crops, or flowers, or your yard.

OK, maybe that sounds harsh or paranoid, but if you rid your yard of one noxious weed, you could set off a chain reaction if you use some products. When I first heard about the Inert ingredients, I thought it was one of those "urban myths." I searched for information on it and found many articles. Here is a link to an article Aerial Spraying for the Brown Apple Moth to Resume" that discusses this issue. The article is in Beyond Pesticides Daily New Blog (October 24, 2007). Here is a quote from the article about one inert list:
However, the inert chemicals in CheckMate LBAM-F have now come under scrutiny by local residents. These inerts ingredients causing concern are: butylated hydroxytoluene, tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride, polyvinyl alcohol, and sodium phosphate. These inerts are listed by the US EPA as List 3 - Inerts of unknown toxicity, and List 4B - Other ingredients for which EPA has sufficient information to reasonably conclude that the current use pattern in pesticide products will not adversely affect public health or the environment, respectively.

Suzanne Dowling, a concerned resident, said, “There are health hazards associated with each and every one of the four inert ingredients of the product to be dumped on us.”

There are additional links in this article.

For the regulators of certified organic products the inert list is of prime concern. One of the men who works for WSDA Organic Program told me that they spend a huge amount of their time testing the inert ingredients of products being put forth as "organic".

If you read my last post about Pesticides in children, you can extrapolate the implications of non-inert Inert ingredients.

Spring is coming, and state and local pest controllers will be out aerial spraying gypsy or codling moths honestly not knowing about the "inert" list. They truly believe it to be a real inert ingredient such a silica.

Question of the day:
How do we move to knowing what is really in things?

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