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EPA proposes stronger pesticide standards

Agency moves to toughen regulations on restricted use pesticides and how used by applicators.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed stronger standards for pesticide applicators who apply “restricted-use” pesticides, including a requirement that anyone who applies restricted use pesticides must be at least 18 years old. 

About 5% of all pesticides are registered as “restricted-use” pesticides, and EPA said the update was necessary on these products which “pose the greater risk to human health and the environment if used improperly.” The agency hasn’t modernized the rules since 1974. There is also a need to bring consistency to state programs.

The EPA said the goal of the new action is to reduce the likelihood of harm from the misapplication of toxic pesticides and ensure a consistent level of protection among states. Pesticide use would be safer with increased supervision and oversight, EPA added in its statement.

EPA is proposing additional specialized licensing for certain methods of application that can pose greater risks if not conducted properly, such as fumigation and aerial application.  For further protection, those working under the supervision of certified applicators would now need training on using pesticides safely and protecting their families from take-home pesticide exposure.

State agencies issue licenses to pesticide applicators who need to demonstrate under an EPA-approved program their ability to use these products safely. The proposed revisions would reduce the burden on applicators and pest control companies that work across state lines. The proposal promotes consistency across state programs by encouraging inter-state recognition of licenses. Currently 35 states have a minimum age of 18 for applicators.

The proposal also updates the requirements for States, Tribes, and Federal agencies that administer their own certification programs to incorporate the strengthened standards. Many states already have in place some or many of EPA’s proposed changes. The proposed changes would raise the bar nationally to a level that most states have already achieved. 

EPA is proposing stricter standards for people certified to use restricted use pesticides and to require all people who apply restricted use pesticides to be at least 18 years old.  Certifications would have to be renewed every three years. 

The estimated benefits of $80.5 million would be due to fewer acute pesticide incidents to people, EPA said.

Dr. Janet E. Collins, senior vice president, science and regulatory affairs for CropLife America, said the organization continues to review the proposed rules, but are were unable to comment on specific proposals introduced by EPA.

Collins said it is critical that crop protection products are applied responsibly and according to label directions to ensure the well-being for both applicators and the environment. “The crop protection industry supports science-based regulations and label language that provides an appropriate level of safety while not placing undue regulatory burden on private applicators, growers and other stakeholders in the agriculture industry,” she added.

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