Pesticides incorporated into fabrics and household items are dangerous and insufficiently regulated

(Beyond pesticides, December 13, 2021) If you plan to gift socks, sweatshirts, or other clothing as Christmas gifts, be aware that many such items are treated with toxic chemicals. These treated items may be labeled as “odorless” and may contain nanosilver, triclosan (banned in soaps, but allowed in textiles and household products), or other chemicals (undisclosed) hiding behind product names. brands such as Microban® or FreshIQ. Since it is not always possible to determine which chemical can be used in these textiles, the best option is to purchase organic or locally made clothing.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempts processed items from registration requirements under the Federal Insecticides, Fungicides, and Rodenticides Act (FIFRA). While the chemicals themselves may be registered antimicrobial pesticides, the treated products in which they are found – and which expose the public to them – are not considered pesticides. In addition to clothing treated with antimicrobials to control odor, the EPA also allows the treatment of seeds, wood, paints, cutting boards, sponges, mops and even toothbrushes with antimicrobial pesticides under of the exemption, provided that the claims made for the treatment relate only to the protection of the article treated. For example, sock manufacturers may claim that treated socks will not stink, but may not claim that they will protect the wearer from athlete’s foot.

Failure to regard treated articles as pesticides has serious consequences. Manufacturers are not required to disclose actual chemicals to which consumers are exposed. Studies have shown that when impregnated into textiles such as sportswear, nanosilver not only washes in the washing machine, it can also seep into a person’s sweat and end up being absorbed through the skin. Nanosilver’s size means that it can easily pass through the body’s blood and lymphatic system and travel to sensitive areas such as the brain, liver, and heart. Triclosan has been linked to a range of health and environmental effects, ranging from skin irritation, sensitivity to allergies, bacterial and compound resistance to antibiotics, and contamination with dioxins up to destruction of fragile aquatic ecosystems.

The EPA does not assess the effects of exposure to these tissues. It does not apply the FIFRA risk-benefit standard to these uses. It simply considers them outside the scope of the pesticide regulations.

Tell the EPA to regulate items treated with pesticides as pesticides, reviewing alternatives and requiring labels.

Letter to EPA (Office of Pesticide Programs and Administrator Regan)

Please delete the exemption for the registration of articles treated with pesticides (PR-2000-1). The treated articles pose uncontrolled threats to human health and the environment. The EPA does not decide to authorize such uses on the basis of the FIFRA risk-benefit standard but applies an arbitrary criterion based on the advertising claims of the suppliers of treated articles.

Who decides that the benefits of seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides outweigh the risk of apocalyptic collapse of insect populations? Who decides that the benefits of wood impregnated with toxic copper compounds outweigh the risks to workers and those who use treated wood? How does the EPA justify ignoring the risks to consumers of cutting boards, toothbrushes, socks and underwear exposed to toxic antimicrobial chemicals?

None of these decisions should be made in the absence of data. None should be done without a demonstration of the need (“benefits”) of the pesticide. Certainly, none of these uses should be permitted without full and transparent disclosure to the consumer of the chemical, and not of a brand name whose properties cannot be determined.

In other words, all of these “treated articles” should be required to be registered as pesticides.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


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