Pesticide Risk Indicators: Unidentified Inert Ingredients Compromise Their Integrity and Utility


Pesticide Risk Indicators (PRIs) are widely used to evaluate and compare the potential health and environmental risks of pesticide use and to guide pest control policies and practices. They are applied to agricultural, landscape and structural pest management by governmental agencies, private institutions and individuals. PRIs typically assess only the potential risks associated with the active ingredients because, with few exceptions, pesticide manufacturers disclose only the identity of the active ingredients which generally comprise only a minor portion of pesticide products. We show that when inert ingredients are identified and assessed by the same process as the active ingredient, the product specific risk can be much greater than that calculated for the active ingredient alone. To maintain transparency in risk assessment, all those who develop and apply PRIs or make decisions based on their output, should clearly disclose and discuss the limitations of the method.

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Part of the work on this paper was completed while Michael Surgan and Madison Condon were employed by the New York State Attorney General. Dr. Surgan has retired and Ms. Condon is currently a Fullbright Fellow for the study of International Water Management based in the Netherlands. The views expressed in this paper are theirs and not necessarily those of the Attorney General. We also acknowledge the Center for Environmental Health’s generous support for this work.

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Correspondence to Caroline Cox.

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Surgan, M., Condon, M. & Cox, C. Pesticide Risk Indicators: Unidentified Inert Ingredients Compromise Their Integrity and Utility. Environmental Management 45, 834–841 (2010).

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  • Pesticide Risk Indicators
  • Inert ingredients
  • EIQ
  • GUS