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Pesticides: What They Are, and What You Need to Know

February 5, 2014

Odds are that you’ve heard of, encountered–or maybe even used–pesticides at one time or another. Well, that’s because pesticides provide countless benefits for countless businesses.

They’re also among most common hazardous materials in existence.

What exactly is a pesticide, you ask? According to the EPA, a pesticide is “any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest, or intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.”

In short, pesticides kill or discourage pests. Because they have the power to kill, however, they are extremely harmful–and extremely regulated. In fact, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) are two federal statues designed to regulate pesticides.

FIFRA, in particular, regulates the sale, distribution, and use of pesticides, and also authorizes the EPA to review and register pesticides for specific intended uses. It also allows the EPA to suspend or cancel the registration of a pesticide if research shows that its continued use would pose dangerous or unreasonable risks to plants, animals, people or the environment in general.

The FFDCA, meanwhile sets maximum residue levels (also called “tolerances”) for pesticides used in–or on–foods consumed by people or animals. The FDA helps enforce these standards for fruits and vegetables, while the USDA focuses on milk, meat, eggs and poultry.

In 1996, the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) amended FIFRA and FFDCA, setting tougher and more uniform standards for pesticides in the process. This document, which was passed unanimously in both houses of Congress, established a single safety standard for pesticide tolerances–as opposed to the previous, and more subjective, risk/reward standard (though there remain some exceptions).

FQPA also takes into account aggregate exposures to – and the cumulative effects of – pesticides. As a result, tolerances are frequently reevaluated, and the EPA must review all pesticide registrations every 15 years.

Some other things to keep in mind when it comes to pesticides:

  • All pesticide products must obtain an EPA registration before manufacture, transport or sale
  • Labeling, packaging, composition and disposal of pesticides are all regulated
  • A certain pesticide can be suspended or canceled at any time

Pesticides are a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. They play a vital role for numerous business across the country–particularly in agrarian and manufacturing areas – and they aren’t going away any time soon. Luckily, waste pesticides that are classified as hazardous waste can be collected as “universal waste,” which make them easier to dispose of.

Contact Hazardous Waste Experts for more information on the storage, usage and disposal of pesticides. Call us today at 800-936-2311.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.