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Laws Affecting EPA's Pesticide Programs


Current as of: August 1998

There are over 20 thousand pesticide products registered for use in the United States. Several laws govern the Federal regulatory program for these pesticide products. Under Federal law, the Environmental Protection Agency is largely responsible for regulating the sale and use of pesticides, and the allowable levels of such pesticides in or on food. EPA's authority, and the limits to that authority, are contained in two core statutes, the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide, and Fungicide Act (FIFRA), the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). In 1996, both statutes were amended by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). In addition, many other Environmental and procedural statutes provide shape and direction to the Agency's pesticide program. This fact sheet provides an overview of several of the most common statutes affecting EPA's pesticide program.

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Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)

FIFRA provides the overall framework for the federal pesticide program. Under FIFRA, EPA is responsible for registering, or licensing pesticide products for use in the United States. Pesticide registration decisions are based on a detailed assessment of the potential effects of a product on human health and the environment, when used according to label directions. These approved labels have the force of law, and any use which is not in accordance with the label directions and precautions may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. FIFRA also requires that EPA reevaluate older pesticides to ensure that they meet more recent safety standards. FIFRA requires EPA and states to establish programs to protect workers, and provide training and certification for applicators as well.

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) governs the establishment of pesticide tolerances for food and feed products. A tolerance is the maximum level of pesticide residues allowed in or on human food and animal feed. EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are responsible for administering the Act.

Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA)

This law, passed in 1996, amends both FIFRA and FFDCA, setting a tougher standard for pesticides used on food. FQPA established a single, health based standard to be used when assessing the risks of pesticide residues in food or feed. The new safety standard is measured considering the aggregate risk from dietary exposure and other non-occupational sources of exposure, such as drinking water and residential lawn uses. In addition, when setting new, or reassessing existing, tolerances under the new standard. EPA must now focus explicitly on exposures and risks to infants and children. Decisions must consider whether tolerances are safe for children assuming, when appropriate, an additional safety factor to account for uncertainty in data.

Other FQPA Requirements include:

For more information, visit the FQPA Web site.

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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Under FOIA, Federal agencies are legally required to respond to public requests for agency records. Agencies are required to provide records to the public unless they are confidential and protected from disclosure. For example, any information considered to protect trade secrets and commercial or financial information may be protected. EPA's pesticide program has established an office to handle FOIA requests. All requests can be sent to:

EPA Freedom of Information Office
401 M Street, Southwest
Mail Code: 1105
Washington, D.C. 20460

For further information, visit the FOIA website.

Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)

FACA establish policies and procedures for seeking external stakeholder input on Federal Agency activities. This law ensures that such consultation is open to the public and transparent. OPP FACA committees have included:

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

The Safe Drinking Water Act was established to protect the quality of drinking water in the United States for both underground and above ground sources. In 1996, Congress amended the law to require the development of a screening and testing program for chemicals and pesticides for possible endocrine disrupting effects. EPA must develop and present a screening program to Congress and begin implementation by August 1999 to determine whether certain substances may have endocrine effects. This same requirement was contained in FQPA.

For more information

If you would like more information about EPA's pesticide programs, contact the Communications Service Branch at (703) 305-5017 or visit our Web page.

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