(CNSNews.com) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed taking 72 hazardous chemicals off of its approved list of inert ingredients allowed for use in pesticides. (See EPA chemical substances for removal.pdf)
But the inclusion of argon (AR) - a naturally occurring element and the third most abundant gas in the Earth’s atmosphere - has left some people scratching their heads.
According to the Gas Encyclopedia, “the name argon comes from the Greek argos, meaning ‘the lazy one’” because it is so chemically stable. The element, which was discovered in 1894, is “so unreactive” that it is primarily used to provide “an inert atmosphere in which hot metals can be worked.”
This “noble gas” is also used in auto air bags, fluorescent light bulbs, as insulation in double-glazed windows, and for growing semiconductor crystals.
In a May 22 letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris and representatives of two environmental groups denying petitions they “submitted in 2006 identifying 371 pesticide inert ingredients as hazardous,” EPA Assistant Administrator James Jones assured them that “the agency would take appropriate action to address risks from pesticide inert ingredients.” (See EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0558-0003.pd)
EPA whittled their original list down to 72 inert ingredients, including turpentine oil and nitrous oxide, because none of them are currently being used in any registered pesticides, according to the EPA.
“Once an inert ingredient is removed from the list, any proposed future use of the inert ingredient would need to be supported by data provided to and reviewed by the EPA as part of a new inert ingredient submission request,” the agency noted.
But because people breathe argon and its atoms “do not combine with one another, nor have they been observed to combine chemically with atoms of any other element,” a number of public comments posted on EPA’s website expressed credulity that argon is on any hazardous list in the first place:
“I'm a professor of chemistry at the University of Nebraska. Removal of argon, the quintessential common inert gas, from the approved inert ingredients list, is likely to result in ridicule for the EPA. Government science agencies have a poor enough reputation already. Please don't make it worse!”
“You should withdraw this entire proposal, and tell the activists that you will consider their petition to be a sham and a mockery of science, based on their inclusion of argon on the list.”
“I was absolutely dumbfounded to see Argon (#48) on this list. Considering that this noble gas is TOTALLY INERT and no compounds that can be created with this element (only by using extraordinary effort in a lab environment) can survive at room temperature, why on earth would it even be on a list of banned substances?!! I think someone at the EPA must have previously consumed too much of some banned substance -- as this makes absolutely no sense!”
“The ridiculous inclusion of Argon, a noble gas and the fourth largest component of Earth's atmosphere behind Nitrogen, Oxygen and water, on this list, casts tremendous doubt on the knowledge and expertise of the list's creators. It provides reason to genuinely doubt the inclusion of any of the other 71 ingredients on the list as well.”
“The burden of proof lies on those who want ingredients removed. Ingredients should be removed only if there is substantial evidence of their causing harm (certainly not the case with Argon, which we all breathe in great quantities each and every day). To remove ingredients first and require proof of non-harm (a null hypothesis situation) in the future directly opposes the scientific process upon which all of our knowledge of the world is built.”
“Banning Argon? It's an inert gas. Think about it. This is beyond human comprehension. What idiotic environmentalist came up with this idea? Aren't you embarrassed?”
“Argon? C’mon, who's checking this stuff before you publish it?”
CNSNews.com did not receive a reply to its request that an EPA spokeswoman explain why it is proposing to ban argon from its list of approved pesticide ingredients.
The agency will be accepting public comments on the proposed action until Nov. 21.