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Pesticide Spray and Dust Drift

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Current as of March 2014

Comment period on Pesticide Drift Labeling PR Notice extended to March 5, 2010 [FR Notice, December 9, 2009]

The drift of spray and dust from pesticide applications can expose people, wildlife, and the environment to pesticide residues that can cause health and environmental effects and property damage. For these reasons, and because EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) is responsible for regulating the use of pesticides in the United States, OPP has been actively engaged in a number of initiatives to help prevent such problems. These initiatives include:

This website provides information on current Agency actions to address pesticide drift, including the development and release for public comment of a draft Pesticide Registration (PR) Notice on Pesticide Drift Labeling.

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Current Agency Actions to Address Pesticide Drift

Comment period on Pesticide Drift Labeling PR Notice extended to March 5, 2010 [FR Notice - December 9, 2009]

On November 4, 2009, EPA issued proposed guidance for new pesticide labeling to reduce off-target spray and dust drift. The actions detailed in EPA’s draft Pesticide Registration (PR) Notice on Pesticide Drift Labeling will improve the clarity and consistency of pesticide labels and help prevent harm from pesticide drift. The draft PR Notice and related documents described below are available in Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0628 at Regulations.gov.

Draft PR Notice 2009-X on Pesticide Drift Labeling

EPA has developed and issued for public comment a draft PR Notice on Pesticide Drift Labeling. The purpose of draft PR Notice 2009-X is to provide guidance to registrants and applicants for registration on labeling statements concerning pesticide drift, and to inform the public of EPA’s policies with regard to pesticide drift. The draft PR Notice proposes labeling statements and formats intended to improve communication of drift management requirements to pesticide applicators and as a result, to improve protection of people and other non-target organisms and sites from potential adverse effects that may be caused by off-target pesticide drift. The recommended statements should appear on products whose application may result in drift.

The draft PR Notice contains:

  1. A general drift statement that varies according to product type. The general drift statement prohibits drift that could cause an adverse effect to people or any other non-target organism or site.
  2. Examples of risk-based, product-specific drift use restrictions, along with formats for presenting these statements on product labeling. On a pesticide-by-pesticide basis, based on individual product use patterns, EPA will evaluate scientific information on risk and exposure from pesticide drift. These assessments will help the Agency determine whether product-specific use restrictions are needed to protect people, wildlife, water resources, schools, or other sensitive sites from potential harm. These restrictions could include no-spray buffer zones, or requirements related to droplet or particle size, nozzle height, or weather conditions at the time of application.
  3. Guidance to applicants and registrants about the process for implementing the new statements and formats on product labeling.

The Agency believes the use of these statements and formats on labels will provide users consistent, understandable, and enforceable directions about how to protect human health and the environment from harm that might result from off-target pesticide drift.

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EPA Guidance to Enforcement Officials on Interpreting the New Drift Labeling

Along with draft PR Notice 2009-X, EPA is issuing for comment a draft “Pesticide Drift Labeling Interpretation” document, which provides guidance to state and tribal officials about how EPA intends the new drift labeling statements in the PR Notice to be interpreted, as well as typical examples of how the labeling could be interpreted by enforcement officials in real-world drift cases.

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Additional Information and Questions for Commenters

A supporting document entitled “Draft PR Notice 2009-X: Additional Information and Questions for Commenters” contains background information on pesticide drift, a description of current and planned EPA actions to address drift, and a reader’s guide to the draft PR Notice, including a description of key terms and concepts, explanatory rationales, and specific questions on which EPA is seeking input from stakeholders.

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Other Agency Actions

Along with the development of draft PR Notice 2009-X and the Labeling Interpretation guidance document, EPA is taking a number of other actions to address pesticide drift, including facilitating adoption of drift reducing technologies by applicators, providing access to information on best management practices to reduce drift, and supporting education and training programs.

The Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) Program

OPP and the Agency’s Office of Research and Development are currently developing a new voluntary program, the Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) Program, which encourages the development, marketing, and use of application technologies verified to significantly reduce spray drift. The Agency expects the DRT Program to be operative by 2010. The DRT Program will enable manufacturers of pesticide application technologies (e.g., spray nozzles) to voluntarily test their technologies to verify drift reduction potential. EPA intends to encourage pesticide registrants to include use of these technologies, along with standard drift reduction techniques, in product label use directions. More information about EPA’s development of the DRT Program, including the draft generic test protocol for the verification of pesticide spray drift reduction technologies is available from the Environmental and Sustainable Technology Evaluations (ESTE) Web page. Additionally, OPP is developing a website that will describe the DRT Program process.

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Best Management Practices to Reduce Drift

The Agency encourages pesticide applicators to use all feasible means available to them to minimize off-target drift. To support this goal, EPA intends to work with applicators, agricultural extension agents, registrants, environmental groups, and other interested stakeholders to collect and develop information on best management practices (BMPs) to reduce off-target drift for specific application methods and crop sector combinations (such as airblast application to orchard crops). These guidance documents will be consolidated by EPA and made available online. EPA encourages readers of this Notice to submit any available information to the docket, and to contact the Agency if you are interested in participating in the development or improvement of sector-specific BMPs.

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Applicator Training and Education Projects

For many years EPA has contributed funding to support education and training programs on drift management. EPA provides annual funds to states to support pesticide applicator training programs, many of which include educational material on drift management. In addition, EPA contributed to the development of the National Coalition on Drift Minimization educational video and CD-Rom, and supported the development of the National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual, which contains a module on minimizing spray drift. EPA also has provided funds for the past five years to the National Agricultural Aviation Association’s Professional Aerial Applicator Support System (PAASS) to support their training and education programs to reduce drift incidents. The PAASS has developed specific 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.

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In December 2009, EPA convened the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to examine the scientific issues associated with field volatilization of pesticides. Further information is available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0687 at Regulations.gov, and on the FIFRA SAP Meetings Web page.

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Where Can Complaints About Spray and Dust Drift Be Directed?

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

If you suspect that there has been an occurrence of illegal application, you should contact your state or tribal pesticide regulatory agency (either the department of agriculture or environmental protection).

Take this opportunity to verify that you have phone numbers for emergency medical assistance and for your state and country agencies.

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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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