A Problem of Epic Proportions: PFAS Chemicals in Pesticides

The ‘Forever-and-Everywhere’ toxic chemical family PFAS has been outed again–and this time scientists are saying the problem is of “epic proportions”:  New testing from an environmental watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) shows PFAS are also present in multiple pesticides. It is unclear how the PFAS are getting into the pesticides, and whether manufacturers are intentionally adding the chemicals, as opposed to accidental contamination from equipment used to manufacture or transport the pesticides. The tests found PFAS in mosquito and tick control agent Mavrik Perimeter, made by Zoecon. Initial testing revealed PFAS in at least three other pesticides, although further analysis is required to confirm those results.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found eight different PFAS in barrels that carry Anvil 10+10. The presence of PFOA (from the PFAS chemical family), in particular, is concerning, because the compound was discontinued by manufacturers years ago over concerns about its negative health effects.

The findings, described as “deeply concerning,” raise a host of public health concerns — including implications for food safety — and could trigger pressure on EPA to address the issue*. The agency has faced repeated scrutiny over pesticides in the past.

Advocates say the agency isn’t doing enough and that the EPA should be more proactive in warning the public about the possibility and implications of PFAS contamination in pesticides.

“We now have five different manufacturers that are selling PFAS-contaminated pesticides.  This is a problem of epic proportions.”

-Kyla Bennett, director of science policy at PEER

Bennett, who has questioned whether manufacturers are purposely adding the compounds into pesticides as so-called inert ingredients, also called EPA’s latest test results “deeply concerning” and expressed concern that PFAS could be in many other pesticides, in addition to possibly coming into contact with food through the HDPE barrels.

Advocates say that trust issues remain over such issues and that PEER’s tests underscore the need for public transparency around pesticide ingredients — even though lawsuits seeking to force ingredient disclosure have been unsuccessful for years.

“Over the years, EPA has been consistently behind the curve when it comes to contaminants and ingredients.”

-Drew Toher, community outreach and policy director at Beyond Pesticides

*As of early March, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it is investigating the presence of toxic chemicals in pesticides, which may be coming from their plastic containers.  The agency said in a statement that its testing showed that the chemicals, belonging to a family of substances called PFAS, were “most likely formed” by a reaction while fluorine was being put into the containers, and then “leached into the pesticide product.” The EPA further stated that it is “actively working” with the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and industry and trade organizations to “raise awareness” of the issue. (source)