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Pesticides

Issue Summary
U.S. EPA
States
Organizations/Non-Government Programs
Publications


Issue Summary Pesticides

Over the last several decades, pesticide use has increased dramatically. As of 1991, Americans were using approximately one billion pounds of pesticides a year, twice what was used in 1964. Today, approximately 25,000 pesticide products, containing more than 600 different active ingredients, are on the market in the United States.

Chemical pesticides have been used in the United States since the 1950's. When effectively applied, pesticides can kill and control pests including insects, fungi, bacteria and rodents. On the negative side, pesticides have harmful side effects. Many pesticides are known or suspected to be toxic to humans. They can cause neurologic damage, delayed development, cancer, reproductive dysfunction, and possibly impairment of the immune and endocrine systems. Concern about these effects was first expressed in the early 1960's and now has become widespread as knowledge has grown of the toxicity of pesticides.

In the process of eliminating pests, facilities using pesticides risk exposing workers and visitors to toxic chemicals through the inhalation, ingestion, and absorption of pesticide residues. In addition, pesticides and herbicides can contaminate local water resources.

According to the New York State Attorney General's Office, there are about 25,000 pesticide products containing 600 different active ingredients, most of which target organ systems common to both pests and humans. In addition to these ingredients, pesticides contain a host of "inert" ingredients that are not disclosed on the label and do not require the same health warnings applied to active ingredients, although many are just as harmful to human health.

U.S. EPA pesticides

U.S. EPA Pesticide Home Page. EPA's pesticide starting point.

EPA and the states (usually that state's agriculture office) register or license pesticides for use in the United States. EPA receives its authority to register pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Additionally, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), EPA establishes tolerances (maximum legally permissible levels) for pesticide residues in food.

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.  The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides for federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale, and use. All pesticides distributed or sold in the United States must be registered (licensed) by EPA. Before EPA may register a pesticide under FIFRA, the applicant must show, among other things, that using the pesticide according to specifications "will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment."

States

State Pesticide Regulatory Agencies. Individuals applying pesticides must do so in a manner not only consistent with federal laws, but also consistent with state laws and regulations, which differ from state to state. Additionally, the agency with primary responsibility for regulating pesticide use differs in each state. This guide provides links to phone numbers, addresses, and web sites for the primary pesticide regulatory agency in each state and US territory. This is a resource from the National Pesticide Information Center.

Organizations/Non-Government Programs

National Pesticide Information Center . NPIC provides objective, science-based information about pesticides and pesticide-related topics to enable people to make informed decisions about pesticides and their use. NPIC is a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators. An association of educators providing science-based pesticide safety education programs through tribal and government agencies and the land-grant university cooperative extension services. An organization which seeks to protect human health and the environment through education. A group of national leaders in pesticide safety education, training, and certification.

Publications

EPA's Library of Pesticide Fact Sheet. This collection of fact sheets contains general and chemical-specific information.

NPIC Fact Sheets. A comprehensive list of active-ingredient fact sheets from the National Pesticide Information Center.

Restricted and Canceled Uses. EPA registers pesticides and their use on specific pests and under specific circumstances. For example, "Pesticide A," registered for use on apples, may not be used legally on grapes, or an insecticide registered for "outdoor use" may not legally be used inside a building. In some circumstances, use of a registered pesticide may be restricted to pesticide applicators with special training.

EPA Pesticide Chemical Search.