EPA Guidelines for Pesticide Use

Posted on 5/13/2014 by Anthony R. Cardno

At facilities where pesticides are used, personnel who use them must follow specific EPA regulations. Improper use of pesticides can lead to costly EPA fines, remediation, and cleanup. Facilities that employ contractors to do landscaping or exterminating on the property should ensure that all contractors have the applicable certifications and knowledge to use pesticides correctly.
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates all forms of pesticides from the point of manufacture until disposal. This “cradle-to-grave” management system includes registration of individual active ingredients and “pesticide products.” The EPA defines a pesticide product as “a pesticide in the particular form (including composition, packaging and labeling) in which the pesticide is, or is intended to be, distributed or sold.” [40 CFR 152.3] 
The EPA divides pesticides into four broad categories, each with different regulatory requirements that pesticide end users must follow.
Banned Pesticides
“Banned” pesticides are those for which all uses have been prohibited by EPA final government action or for which no requests for registrations have been granted. It is illegal to possess or use banned pesticides within the United States. While the EPA does not maintain a list of banned pesticides on its website, the Agency does have a page discussing the Prior Informed Consent international protocol on banned pesticides.
General-Use Pesticides
At the opposite end of the spectrum are general-use pesticides—those that can be purchased in any hardware store or supermarket. General-use pesticides are intended, and approved, for use by the general public. General-use pesticides must meet minimum packaging and labeling requirements, including:
  • Child-resistant packaging (defined in 40 CFR 157.21 as “designed and constructed to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open . . . within a reasonable time, and that is not difficult for normal adults to use properly”)
  • Clearly legible, conspicuously placed English language labeling in 6-point type or larger that includes:
    • Names, brands, trademarks;
    • Net contents and ingredients statements;
    • Product and producing establishment registration numbers;
    • Appropriate warnings and precautionary statements;
    • Applicable use classifications; and
    • Directions for use (including prohibited uses).
FIFRA Section 112(a)(2)(G) makes it illegal to use any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling, which means that even though end users do not need to be trained in the pesticide’s use, they must still pay attention to the directions on the packaging. Misuse of a general-use pesticide can still result in civil fines or jail time.
US EPA pesticide certification requirements
Restricted-Use and Severly Restricted-Use Pesticides
A restricted-use pesticide is defined as “a pesticide that is classified for restricted use under the provisions of Section 3(d)(1)(C)” of FIFRA. [40 CFR 171.2] Severely restricted-use pesticides are those for which virtually all registered uses have been prohibited by final government regulatory action, but for which certain specific registered uses remain authorized. In other words, a severely restricted-use pesticide is just a step or two away from being banned.
EPA has a list of restricted-use pesticides, by active ingredient, formulation, and use pattern.
Certifications for Pesticide Users
End users who wish to use restricted-use or severely restricted-use pesticides must be certified applicators or under the supervision of a certified applicator. Pesticide applicators are certified in given categories rather than in the use of specific pesticides. The current Federal categories of certification include:
  • Agricultural pest control;
  • Forest pest control;
  • Ornamental and turf pest control;
  • Plant seed treatment;
  • Aquatic pest control;
  • Right-of-way pest control;
  • Industrial, institutional, structural, and health-related pest control;
  • Public health pest control;
  • Regulatory pest control; and
  • Research and demonstration pest control.
The details of the certification process, including requirements for recertification, vary from state to state and category to category. At a minimum, all certification programs must include completing certification forms, a written exam of pesticide knowledge, and performance testing.
The EPA does not maintain a list of state-level certification programs on its website, but the Agency does direct interested parties to a list of certifying officials.
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