‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in Bayer-Produced Mosquito Killer (1)

March 25, 2021, 10:05 PMUpdated: March 25, 2021, 10:55 PM

The EPA confirmed Thursday that it’s investigating new data showing a mosquito-killer made by Bayer CropScience LP had high concentrations of two well-known “forever chemicals” that have been linked to health problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s probe is part of a broader effort to understand how these chemicals have gotten into pesticides.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Maryland Pesticide Education Network notified the EPA on Wednesday that a sample of Permanone 30-30, a Bayer product used by many states for mosquito control, contained two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Specifically the insecticide contained 3,500 parts per trillion of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), one of the most well-known and toxic forms of PFAS, and 630 parts per trillion of hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), a PFOA replacement known as GenX, according to test results from Eurofins Scientific, an international group of laboratories known for PFAS testing expertise.

“EPA has received the letter and data from PEER on Permanone 30-30 and will review it as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to investigate PFAS contamination in pesticide products,” an agency spokesperson said by email.

Increased Risk of Lawsuits

The PFAS discovery and its connection to a well-known company may spur litigation, said Seth Goldberg, an environmental attorney and partner in Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s Washington office.

“We’re already seeing a lot of litigation about these compounds, and this is another source that can be a focus of folks who want to focus on the problem,” he said, regarding PFAS.

But “it’s far from certain there would be any liability,” he said, pointing to the many unknowns including where the PFAS came from.

No ingredients in the mixture of Permanone 30-30 that Bayer provided the EPA—and that the EPA approved—contained PFAS, the agency said in a statement Thursday.

The EPA is testing different brands of pesticide containers treated with fluorine to determine whether they contain and/or leach PFAS, and if so, understand the conditions that affect that leaching, it said, adding that it would “present these findings as expeditiously as possible.”

Bayer CropScience, the agricultural and environmental science arm of BayerAG, provided a statement: “As a member of CropLife America, Bayer is engaged with the community and completely supportive of the industry’s efforts as we review the guidance from the EPA on this matter.”

The company referenced work the EPA announced earlier this month after it confirmed PEER-discovered PFAS in a different mosquito-control product called Anvil 10+10.

EPA is working with the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and industry and trade organizations, including CropLife America, the National Pest Management Association, and the American Chemistry Council, to raise awareness of this emerging issue and product stewardship.

PFAS Problem

Kyla Bennett, PEER’s director of science policy, said the PFAS may be an unintentional contaminant, an inert ingredient that helps disperse the insecticide or provides other functions, or comes from the containers in which the pesticides are stored. But they shouldn’t be in something that’s sprayed into the environment, she said.

The most well-known PFAS, including PFOA, are associated with health problems including increased cholesterol, weakened immune systems, and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also remain in the environment, because neither sunlight, weather, nor most microbes break them down.

PFAS are a problem because they’re “highly mobile and persistent—that’s why they’re called forever chemicals—and they move from the industries and products where they’re made and used into the air, land, surface and ground water,” and then from one media to the other, said William “Bill” Alley, science and technology director for the National Ground Water Association.

The organization represents engineers, water-well contractors, and other professionals working to protect groundwater.

(Updated with comment from Bayer CropScience and additional details in paragraphs 11-13.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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