Pesticide Regs 101

Though often misunderstood as referring only to insecticides, the term pesticides also refers to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.

What’s NOT a Pesticide

The definition of pesticides is quite broad, but it does exclude:

  • Drugs regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are used to control diseases of humans or animals
  • Fertilizers, nutrients, and other substances used to promote plant survival and health that are intended for use against pests and that do not contain a pesticide
  • A product intended to force bees from hives for collection of honey crops
  • Biological control agents, except for certain microorganisms, that include beneficial predators such as birds or ladybugs that eat insect pests
  • Products that contain certain low-risk ingredients, such as garlic and mint oil, and that are  exempt from federal registration requirements, although state regulatory requirements may still apply

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How EPA Regulates Pesticides

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is the major statute that regulates the registration, sale, labeling, and use of pesticides. However, other environmental laws regulate pesticide use, as follows:

  • The Clean Air Act (CAA) regulates hazardous air pollutants associated with pesticides.
  • The Clean Water Act (CWA) and Safe Drinking Water Act provide for the limitation of pesticides in water resources.
  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates the disposal and storage of pesticides that are hazardous waste.

From design to disposal, numerous federal agencies regulate pesticides. EPA, through its various offices, plays the greatest role in overseeing the manufacture, distribution, transportation, and disposal of pesticides.

Other federal and state agencies also have a hand in carrying out federal mandates. The FDA inspects agricultural commodities for pesticide residues and pesticide products that meet the statutory definition of a drug. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the transporting of pesticides, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets worker protection standards along with EPA. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects meat and poultry for pesticide residues and collects data with an eye toward assessing food safety and market concerns.

Regulation taps every group that works in and around the field of pesticides. In particular, the following groups are affected:

  • Applicators/workers
  • Dealers
  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Transporters
  • Trainers

Pesticide regulation also includes facilities using pesticides in their operations, including farms; nurseries; operations that produce plants for wood fiber or timber products; cotton manufacturers; facilities involved with mosquito abatement, upkeep of parks, public lawns; and facilities that deal with the mechanical treatment of cleaning, adjusting, handling, or repairing parts that contain pesticide residues.

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What About State Pesticide Programs?

EPA partners with state governments in the regulation of pesticides. State agencies have primary responsibility for regulating the use of pesticides, having entered into cooperative agreements with EPA to receive federal funding in exchange for conducting inspections and training and certifying pesticide workers. EPA maintains an oversight role for these cooperative agreements, but the primary authority for most compliance and enforcement actions regarding the use of pesticides rests with the states.

See tomorrow’s Advisor for tips for pesticide storage.

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