Reducing Pesticide Risk
September 27, 2011
By their nature as substances that in many cases are designed to kill pests, pesticides can pose risks to humans and to the environment. It is possible to reduce those risks in several ways. For example:
- The Office of Pesticide Program's Conventional Reduced Risk Pesticide Program expedites the review and regulatory decision-making process of conventional pesticides that pose less risk to human health and the environment than existing conventional alternatives. The goal of this program is to quickly register commercially viable alternatives to riskier conventional pesticides such as neurotoxins, carcinogens, reproductive and developmental toxicants, and groundwater contaminants. This ensures that these Reduced Risk pesticide uses get into the marketplace and are available to growers as soon as possible. Expected participants in this program are the chemical companies and state or Federal agencies that submit to the Agency initial registration and amended registration applications for pesticide products. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA) formalized the program and mandated that the Agency continue and enhance it.
- EPA gives priority in its registration program for conventional chemical
pesticides to pesticides that meet reduced
risk criteria: low-impact on human health, low toxicity to non-target
organisms (birds, fish, and plants), low potential for groundwater contamination,
lower use rates, low pest resistance potential, and compatibility with
Integrated Pest Management.
- Some pesticides are by their nature less risky, for example, many
biological pesticides that are derived from such natural materials as
animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals pose a lower risk. For
example, canola oil and baking soda have pesticidal applications and
are considered biopesticides.
However, other plant-derived pesticides such as nicotine can be quite
- EPA is reviewing
older pesticides to ensure that they meet current safety standards.
The results of these reviews often include actions to reduce risks from
pesticides, such as establishing or enlarging buffers to protect surface
water bodies, changing the amount or frequency of use of a pesticide
to reduce exposure, limiting use of the pesticide during periods when
a non-pest species might be affected, eliminating or modifying uses
that pose unacceptable risks to people, particularly children.
- In many situations, there may be non-chemical methods to control pests. EPA recommends considering and using these methods as part of an overall pest management strategy, often called Integrated Pest Management.