By Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG
A groundbreaking court victory came out yesterday: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an important pesticide law and ruled that pesticides can’t be sold until they’re tested for safety. For years, chemical corporations have sold chemicals before testing them for safety under an EPA “fast-track” loophole. But yesterday the court found that the EPA can only fast-track a pesticide under very narrow conditions (for example, if there is an immediate public health threat that requires a new insecticide).
Following this noteworthy court ruling, the EPA must fully test all pesticides before companies can sell the chemical to consumers and stop abusing their “fast-track” process.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as well as the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) filed petitions in 2015 asking the court to set aside the EPA’s decision allowing the use of a pesticide containing a chemical called “nanosilver.” Nanosilver is an additive used in plastics and fabrics, and is essentially tiny particles of silver.
The EPA posited that the use of nanosilver would be better than the use of pesticides containing silver. However, the EPA and chemical companies had not proven that nanosilver was a safe alternative over the long-term. As the court explained, this new form of silver poses “new risks” that were not tested by the EPA or by the manufacturers.
Nanosilver is known to be highly toxic to aquatic life, and may be hazardous to people. It is designed to penetrate cell walls and could cause hormone disruption. Without proper lab testing to verify the safety of nanosilver pesticides, the American people are unwitting guinea pigs.
This case gives the public more protection from untested pesticides. Even though the law already required companies to perform health and safety studies before selling a product, the EPA was using a loophole to allow manufacturers to sell their products before finishing their studies. The result has been the sale and use of untested pesticides, which puts the health of our families, and especially children, at risk.
This is a great victory for public health. More regulation and oversight are needed to protect people from harmful pesticides like Roundup and chlorpyrifos. Just last month, over 50 farm workers were harmed by an accidental release of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. And the health of untold thousands of people are affected by the use of pesticides in the US every year.
The court ruling will aid the work of community groups as we strive to eliminate harmful chemicals in consumer products. Consumers should not have to worry that the products they buy from the store, the food they eat, and the air that they breathe are poisoned by harmful pesticides. The 9th Circuit decision underscores that the law was designed to protect Americans from these harmful chemicals, and the EPA should be following the law.
The EPA should immediately crack down on all pesticides that haven’t yet gone through the registration process and get rid of this loophole that isn’t in the public’s best interest.