Before a pesticide can be used in the United States, EPA conducts ecological risk assessments to determine what risks are posed by a pesticide and whether changes to the use or proposed use of that pesticide are necessary to protect the environment. A pesticide applicant is required by EPA to conduct and submit a wide range of environmental laboratory and field studies. These studies examine:
- the ecological effects or toxicity of a pesticide and its breakdown products (degradation products) to various terrestrial and aquatic animals and plants and
- the chemical fate and transport of a pesticide (how it behaves and where it goes) in soil, air, and water resources.
EPA scientists review all the available fate and transport information for a pesticide. Based on this review, EPA prepares:
- a fate assessment that interprets the chemical behavior information of the pesticide in the environment and
- a hazard or ecological effects assessment that interprets the relevant toxicity information for the pesticide and its degradation products.
Using environmental fate data and exposure models, EPA scientists estimate exposure of different animals to pesticide residues in the environment.
Finally, they integrate the toxicity information with the exposure data to determine the ecological risk from the use of the pesticide, or whether it is safe for the environment and wildlife.
Ecological Risk Assessments
EPA evaluates the likelihood that exposure to one or more pesticides may cause harmful ecological effects.
- Initiative to Revise the Ecological Assessment Process
- Overview of the Ecological Risk Assessment Process (92 pp, 628 KB, About PDF)
- Technical Overview of Ecological Risk Assessment
- Models and Databases
Additional information of general interest.