EPA Proposes Training Requirements for Those Who Apply Acutely Toxic ‘Restricted Use’ Pesticides

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–August 11, 2015. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing new standards for pesticide applicators who apply “restricted use” pesticides, requiring an increased level of training, a minimum age requirement for applicators, and basic literacy. The proposal will soon be available for public comment. Encompassing the highly acutely toxic pesticides, “restricted use” pesticides are not available for purchase by the general public, and may only be applied by a certified pesticide applicator or an individual working under their direct supervision (which does not require on-site supervision). To highlight the danger associated with the use of these chemicals, EPA estimates that its modest changes in oversight will save $80.5 million, directly attributable to fewer acute pesticide incidents to people.

epa_seal_profilesJim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, hosted a conference call, attended by Beyond Pesticides staff, in which he provided an overview of the new changes. “We are committed to keeping our communities safe, protecting our environment and protecting workers and their families,” said Mr. Jones. “By improving training and certification, those who apply these restricted use pesticides will have better knowledge and ability to use these pesticides safely.” Although EPA’s actions are intended to further address the risk associated with highly toxic pesticides, “safe” in this context is a loaded term that comes with some specific hazard allowances. See the Mail section in a recent issue of Pesticides and You (p2) for more on what’s in the word “safe” when it comes to pesticide applications.

The new EPA rules would cover all individuals that may apply restricted use pesticides, including private applicators (individuals certified to use pesticides in agricultural settings), commercial applicators (individuals certified to use pesticides in non-agricultural settings), and those under the supervision of certified applicators. It is important to note that many states, which have primary authority for enforcement of pesticide law, have already implemented a number of EPA’s proposed changes. However, these new rules provide a new floor from which states can craft further measures to protect public and environmental health from highly toxic chemicals.

EPA’s proposal would establish certification categories for specific application methods (ex. soil fumigation, non-soil fumigation, and aerial applications). At present, federal rules for private applicators have no categories of certification, and commercial applicators require no additional certification to use specific application methods. Moreover, all certified applicators would be required to recertify after a three-year period. Under current federal rules, certified applicators are only required to take a certification test once in their lifetime. EPA is also reversing its allowance of a special process administered by states that permits non-readers to become certified to apply restricted use pesticides.

Further, EPA’s proposed rule institutes a requirement that noncertified applicators under the supervision of certified applicators receive pesticide safety training similar to handlers under the Worker Protection Standard. This would ensure that those applying pesticides have at least basic instruction in safety, application techniques in compliance with pesticide labels, responding to spills, and protecting one’s self, others, and the environment from pesticide hazards. While current rules only require those under supervision to receive general guidance from certified applicators, they will now be required to provide specific instructions related to the application.

An important aspect of the new rules would require all individuals applying restricted use pesticides to be at least 18 years old. Remarkably, there is currently no minimum age requirement for persons to apply highly toxic, restricted use pesticides.

A current list of pesticides classified by EPA as restricted use is available on the agency’s website. While strengthening requirements regarding the use of these chemicals is an important move, the simple fact remains that in order to truly protect public health, EPA and the federal government must be rapidly investing energy in eliminating the need for these products. The agency perceives “qualitative benefits (p10)” benefits from the move, that include reduced chronic effects, such as Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and asthma to workers, handlers, and farmworker families. See Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

However through experience, Beyond Pesticides has found that nearly every pest problem can be adequately addressed through close adherence to cultural, mechanical, structural practices. Within a systems approach and as a last resort, biological products and least-toxic pesticides can be employed to address remaining issues. These products and practices now enjoy wide availability in the marketplace. Organic methods of growing food and controlling pests are now tried and true, and present a stark contrast to the conventional pest control industry, where continuing to abate, rather than eliminate risk, is the is the focus of most efforts. Rarely, if ever, should such highly toxic chemicals that may result in life-altering health effects be employed by any individual.

To learn more about the benefits of supporting organic, see Beyond Pesticides program page. For information on how to deal with pest problems through least toxic means, see ManageSafe database. EPA’s new rules will be available for public comment within the next few weeks. Submit your comment by going to regulations.gov and typing in the docket number: EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0183.

Sources: EPA Press Release, www.beyondpesticides.org