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Pesticide Drift

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Current as of May 2014

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About Pesticide Drift

Pesticide drift is the movement of pesticide dust or droplets through the air at the time of application or soon after, to any site other than the area intended. Pesticide droplets are produced by spray nozzles used in application equipment for spraying pesticides on crops, forests, turf and home gardens. Some other pesticides are formulated as dusts with very fine particles.

Droplets and dust particles can be carried by the wind some distance from the application site and be deposited on other areas, exposing people (such as nearby farmworkers and residents), wildlife, and plants to pesticides that can affect their health and the environment and cause property damage.


Agency Actions to Address Pesticide Drift

We are actively engaged in several initiatives to help minimize pesticide drift problems:

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Pesticide Drift in Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments

We evaluate potential for pesticide drift as a routine part of our human health and ecological pesticide risk assessments. We are adjusting our current method for estimating off-target pesticide drift from the use of standard percentages of application rates stated on pesticide labels using scientific peer reviewed models. We are reviewing public comments on two draft guidance documents that describe how off-site spray drift will be evaluated for ecological and human health risk assessments for pesticides and will make appropriate modifications to these policies and finalize them for use in pesticide risk assessments.

These proposed approaches are available in Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0676 at www.regulations.gov. The public comment period for these draft documents closed on March 31, 2014.

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Labeling to Avoid Pesticide Drift

As a routine part of registration review (the required re-evaluation of all pesticides every 15 years), we evaluate the potential for each pesticide to drift and strengthen labeling as needed. Pesticide labeling may include buffer zone requirements and other application use restrictions to manage drift, such as minimum and maximum wind speeds during application.

In 2009, following extensive public outreach, we issued for public comment draft guidance to improve drift management for application of agricultural and residential pesticides. Specifically, we proposed guidance on labeling statements to improve instructions to applicators and, as a result, to improve protection of people, non-target plants and animals, and sites from potential harm that may be caused by pesticide drift. We included guidance to help enforcement officials interpret label instructions when they investigate alleged drift incidents. Many of the issues of drift management are complex, and we received many comments with diverse opinions on our proposals. We are considering the comments.

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Applicator Training and Education

We support and encourage private and commercial pesticide applicators to take continual education and training on spray drift management.

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Drift Reduction Technology Program

Through a Federal Register Notice, we are requesting public comment on the information collection activities for a Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) Program and announcing that the required Information Collection Request (ICR)* has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget for approval. Upon approval, we plan to launch a new voluntary Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) Program that will offer incentives to the agricultural sector (industry and pesticide applicators) to manufacture, market and use spray application technologies and equipment that has been scientifically verified to significantly reduce pesticide drift.

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What about Volatilization?

In addition to our initiatives to address spray and dust drift, we consider the risks posed when pesticides volatilize during or after application. The movement of vapors through the air is not the same as pesticide movement by spray drift, erosion, or windblown soil particles. Volatilization depends on a number of physical and chemical properties, weather conditions, and other factors. Once off-target, pesticide volatilization can result in inhalation exposure to people such as farm workers and bystanders.

For more information about volatilization see: Pesticide issues in the works: pesticide volatilization.

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Report Pesticide Drift Problems

If you believe that you have been exposed to pesticide spray or dust drift and have health-related questions, contact your physician, local poison control center, or health department for assistance. You can also contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378. Exit EPA disclaimer

Tell your state pesticide regulatory agency Exit EPA disclaimer about pesticide activities that are of concern or may be may be illegal.

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Additional Information

For information on pesticides and pesticide exposure, contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) Exit EPA disclaimer at 1-800-858-7378 (toll free) or through its Web site. NPIC, supported in part by EPA, provides pesticide information to any caller in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands.

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