- 5/28/14: Pesticide Spray Drift Reduction Technologies
- 3/31/14: EPA Response to "Pesticides in the Air – Kids at Risk: Petition to EPA to Protect Children form Pesticide Drift" (PDF) (45 pp, 5.30 MB, about PDF)
- 3/28/14: EPA Seeks Public Comment on Draft Guidance for Pesticide Volatilization Screening Methodology for Human Health Risk Assessments
- Public Comment Period Extended on Draft Guidance Documents for Evaluating Pesticide Spray Drift
- Pesticide issues in the works: pesticide volatilization
- Worker risk assessment
Questions on Pesticides?
- National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC)
Current as of May 2014
On this page:
- About Pesticide Drift
- Agency Actions to Address Pesticide Drift
- Pesticide Drift in Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments
- Labeling to Avoid Pesticide Drift
- Applicator Training and Education
- Drift Reduction Technology Program
- What about Volatilization?
- Report Pesticide Drift Problems
- Additional Information
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.
We are actively engaged in several initiatives to help minimize pesticide drift problems:
- In collaboration with experts at USDA, universities, industry and our state and international partners, we are examining new studies and improving scientific models and methods for estimating pesticide drift, potential exposure and risks from drift.
- As we assess new pesticides and re-evaluate older pesticides, we are improving the clarity and enforceability of product label directions and drift management restrictions to protect people and the environment.
- We are facilitating the use of drift reduction technologies and best management practices to minimize drift.
- We are promoting applicator education and training programs.
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.
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.
We support and encourage private and commercial pesticide applicators to take continual education and training on spray drift management.
- We provide annual funds to states for pesticide applicator training programs, many of which include educational material on drift management.
- We contributed to the National Coalition on Drift Minimization educational video and CD-ROM.
- We support the development of the National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual, which contains a module on minimizing pesticide drift.
- We provide funds to the National Agricultural Aviation Association’s Professional Aerial Applicator Support System (PAASS) for their training and education programs to reduce drift incidents. The PAASS has educational programs that enhance the commercial aerial applicator profession by improving the understanding of human factors, enhancing critical aeronautical decision-making skills, and inducing positive behavioral change.
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.
- We would seek voluntary submission of information to verify the effectiveness of application technologies for agricultural pesticide sprays (including spray nozzles, shrouds and nozzle-drift reduction adjuvant chemical combinations) for aerial or ground boom applications to row and field crops.
- We believe that over time, the DRT Program will move the agricultural sector toward the widespread use of verified low drift technologies. A robust adoption of this voluntary program by equipment and pesticide manufacturers and by pesticide applicators will provide many benefits, including keeping more of the applied pesticide on the intended crop or site, improving pest control, reducing costs and improving environmental protection.
- We expect to initiate the DRT Program in 2014. We will encourage manufacturers to test their technologies to measure their drift reduction potential, pesticide registrants to include label directions to apply their products with verified technologies, and applicators to use these technologies.
- Documents describing the DRT program, including the Information Collection Request, our guidance to industry for participating in the program, the standard protocol for testing technologies, and the draft webpage, are available in the docket (EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0631) at www.regulations.gov. Comments are requested on our ICR by June 27, 2014. Submit comments to that docket.
* Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, whenever we ask people to submit information (whether voluntary or mandatory), we must obtain approval of an Information Collection Request (ICR).
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.
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.
Tell your state pesticide regulatory agency about pesticide activities that are of concern or may be may be illegal.
For information on pesticides and pesticide exposure, contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) 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.