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EPA's Fast-Track Approval Process for Pesticides Raises Health Concerns

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page, Food Safety Research Center page and our Coming Clean Campaign page.

Tiny particles of silver could appear soon in children's toys and clothing, embedded inside plastics and fabrics to fight stains and odors.

No one knows how the germ-killing particles, part of a new pesticide called Nanosilva, affect human health or the environment in the long run. But regulators have proposed letting Nanosilva on the market for up to four years before the manufacturer has to submit studies on whether the particles pose certain dangers.

That's because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has backed approving Nanosilva through conditional registration, a fast-track process that recently has drawn criticism for oversight problems. Unlike regular registration, it allows a pesticide to be sold before all required safety studies are in. In this case, manufacturer Nanosilva LLC can move ahead even though it hasn't explored fully the potential health risks if the product were to seep out of plastic or be inhaled.

Nanosilva's approval, which could be finalized early this year, has renewed focus on the loophole, designed mainly to help the EPA speed up approvals of pesticides nearly identical to those already being sold.

Recent reviews have found vast problems with the EPA's oversight of conditional registration. An internal audit showed in 2011 that 70 percent of all active pesticides had been conditionally approved. The audit also concluded that the agency used the label too broadly. Since then, its use has increased. Figures the EPA provided in December put the number at 80 percent.

Thousands of pesticides kept conditional status for more than 20 years, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, found in 2010. The EPA says studies typically are due within four years.   


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