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Ever-Changing Laws and Regulations

Shortly after the EPA's Groundwater Protection Strategy was issued in August 1984, the Agency initiated an intensive review of existing information and scientific knowledge about the extent of pesticide contamination, its causes and potential health impacts, and statutory authorities and programs available to help address the problem. EPA supports state strategy development through grants under Section 106 of the Clean Water Act as a means for strengthening the capacity of state governments to protect groundwater quality.

Other regulations and programs such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and its amendments, a new Wellhead Protection Program, Clean Water Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the new Non-point Source Management Program have all been initiated in an attempt to protect the nation's groundwater from contamination by all types of pollutants including pesticides. Since the early 1970s, the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs has been evaluating the leaching potential of new and existing pesticides.

Because of potential environmental concerns associated with pesticide application, there are two federal laws that regulate pesticide use: FIFRA and FFDCA. Most of the states have also enacted their own pesticide legislation. All pesticide labels contain certain standard information, including the ingredients, directions for proper use, warning statements to protect users, the public, and nontarget species of plants and animals. All statements on the label must be adhered to by all users and sellers. All pesticides must be registered with the EPA to ensure that they will not cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.

Certain pesticides are classified as "Restricted-Use" and can only be used by or under the direct supervision of a trained Certified Applicator. Restricted-Use pesticides are those that have a greater chance of causing adverse impacts to humans and the environment. Certification is a way of ensuring that people who apply these restricted-use pesticides possess the knowledge to do so in a safe manner. It is illegal to make restricted use pesticides available to non-certified personnel.

The benefits and risks are periodically reassessed as new scientific information is discovered and to reflect changes in the views of society. This does not mean that decisions of today eventually will be proven wrong. Rather, the balance of benefits and risks is ever-changing because of improved science and the changing expectations of society.

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