EPA revises standards for pesticide applicators

Exemption allows those age 16 and older to apply restricted-use pesticides on farm if under supervision of immediate family member.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized standards for applicators who apply restricted-use pesticides that are not available for purchase by the general public and require special handling.

“We are committed to keeping our communities safe, protecting our environment and protecting workers and their families,” said Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention. “By improving training and certification, those who apply these restricted-use pesticides will have better knowledge and ability to use these pesticides safely.”

Approximately 1 million certified pesticide applicators in the U.S. use restricted-use pesticides, and the revisions affect all of them, including commercial pesticide applicators and private pesticide applicators such as farmers and ranchers. EPA said most certification programs already have in place some or many of the elements of EPA’s revisions, and these revisions will strengthen the baseline for applicator certification standards across the country.

EPA said the action will reduce the likelihood of harm from misapplication because the pesticides may only be applied by certified applicators or someone working under their direct supervision. EPA’s stricter standards would require all people who are certified to apply restricted-use pesticides to be at least 18 years of age. These certifications must be renewed every five years.

Previously, there was no national minimum age. With the revised rule, there is a minimum age of 18 for all pesticide applicators seeking certification and for anyone using restricted-use pesticides under the direct supervision of certified applicators. There is an exception for a minimum age of 16 for non-certified applicators using restricted-use pesticides on a farm under the supervision of a private applicator who is a member of their immediate family.

EPA is requiring specialized licensing for certain methods such as fumigation and aerial application that can pose greater risks if not conducted properly. For further protection, those working under the supervision of certified applicators will now receive training to use pesticides safely and to protect their families from “take-home” pesticide exposure.

EPA expects the benefits of this rule to include fewer acute pesticide incidents to people, reduced chronic exposure and reduced incidents of ecological harm from pesticide use.

States and tribes may issue licenses to pesticide applicators with an EPA-approved program who can demonstrate the ability to use these products safely. The final action also updates requirements for state programs and for applicators obtaining licenses. Many states already have in place some of the stronger requirements of this action.

The final rule gives states the flexibility to continue portions of their existing programs that are equivalent to the revised rule. EPA will work with states to review and approve updated certification plans.

EPA said it has been engaging stakeholders both formally and informally on ideas for the revisions since the 1990s. EPA noted that it has received extensive feedback, including in-depth comments on the proposed revisions.

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