Section 11(a)(2) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer a pesticide applicator certification program. To protect both workers and the public, EPA requires commercial pesticide applicators to have practical knowledge about the products they use, potential risks, and core safety principles. Today, May 22, 2018, EPA’s revised certified pesticide applicator regulations officially take effect, after some revisions and delays. We break down the revised FIFRA certification requirements here. New to EHS? Need an update on changing EPA rules? The Complete Environmental Regulations Workshop will help you quickly build in-depth expertise. Catch the workshop in Houston on August 9–10 and Nashville on October 24–25.
Do I Need a Certification to Use Pesticides?
First, let’s be clear: Not all
end-users of pesticides need to be certified—there are plenty of pesticides the average person can purchase in any hardware store or big-box chain store without having to provide proof that they are certified to use that pesticide.
But who does
need certification under FIFRA, and how do they get it?
EPA’s Four Pesticide Classifications
The EPA divides pesticides into four classifications:
- General Use – approved for use by the general public
- Restricted Use – approved for use only by, or under the direct supervision of, certified pesticide applicators
- Severely Restricted Use – all but a few narrow uses are prohibited
- Banned – all use as a pesticide is prohibited
People who use “general-use” pesticides are simply required to follow the directions provided by the manufacturer of the pesticide on the label. Use of a general-use pesticide in any other than the directed manner is a violation of FIFRA and could result in fines or other penalties.
People who sell or use “banned” pesticides in the United States face serious fines and potential jail time.
In 2011, 12 people were arrested in New York City for selling a rodenticide that contained Brodifacoum at 61 times the concentration in EPA-approved registered pesticides.
Just this year, in February 2018, a major online retailer was fined $1.2 million for allegedly selling and distributing unregistered or misbranded pesticides.
Categories of Pesticide Applicator Certification
Pesticide applicators are not certified in the use of a specific pesticide or pesticide product. That would make the certification process too cumbersome for most states to implement. Instead, applicators are certified to apply pesticides under one or more of the following ten categories:
- Agricultural pest control on plants or animals
- Forest pest control
- Ornamental and turf pest control
- Plant seed treatment
- Aquatic pest control (rivers, lakes, streams)
- Right-of-way pest control (along roadways, railways, power lines)
- Industrial, institutional, structural, and health-related pest control (rats, cockroaches, termites, etc.)
- Public health pest control (application by local, State, or Federal employees)
- Regulatory pest control
- Demonstration and research pest control (field researchers, etc.)
State Pesticide Applicator Certification Process
States can add categories or sub-categories to the list above as they deem necessary.
Where areas of Indian country do not have the administrative mechanisms in place to create and maintain pesticide applicator certification programs, EPA Regional Offices become the certifying agencies. The EPA maintains a Plan for Federal Certification of Applicators of Restricted Use Pesticides within Indian Country
on its website.
Does My State Certify Pesticide Applicators?
Details of certification vary from state to state and depend on the category of certification sought. 40 CFR 171.4 and 171.5 require the certification program to include, at a bare minimum:
- Completion of certification forms
- Written examination of pesticide knowledge
- Performance testing
- Recertification requirements
Each state’s certification program must match the Federal general guidelines for certain categories. As is the case with nearly all environmental regulations, State rules can be and often are more stringent than Federal standards. The Association of American Pesticide Control Officials maintains a list of State agencies that provide certification for applicators: https://aapco.org/2015/07/28/resources-2/
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