The new instructions are aimed at improving the clarity and consistency of pesticide labels and help prevent harm from spray drift, the toxic spray or vapor that travels from treated agricultural fields and into neighboring communities.
The agency is also requesting comment on a citizens' petition to evaluate children’s exposure to pesticide drift.
"The new label statements will help reduce problems from pesticide drift," said Steve Owens, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances.
"The new labels will carry more uniform and specific directions on restricting spray drift while giving pesticide applicators clear and workable instructions," he said.
Crop duster sprays pesticide on a Louisiana field. (Photo by Paul Nettles)
The new instructions will prohibit drift that could cause adverse health or environmental effects. Also, on a pesticide-by-pesticide basis, EPA will evaluate scientific information on risk and exposure based on individual product use patterns.
These assessments will help the agency determine whether no-spray buffer zones or other measures – such as restrictions on droplet or particle size, nozzle height, or weather conditions – are needed to protect people, wildlife, water resources, schools and other sensitive sites from potential harm, said Owens.
EPA is also seeking comment on a draft pesticide drift labeling interpretation document that provides guidance to state and tribal enforcement officials.
A second document provides background information on pesticide drift, a description of current and planned EPA actions, a reader’s guide explaining key terms and concepts, and specific questions on which EPA is seeking input.
These documents and further information are available in docket EPA–HQ–OPP–2009–0628 at http://www.regulations.gov.
In a second Federal Register notice, EPA is also requesting comment on a petition filed recently by environmental and farm worker organizations.
On October 13, 2009, EPA received a petition from Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice, on behalf of several other organizations, requesting that the agency systematically evaluate children's exposures to pesticide drift and require interim prohibitions on the use of certain pesticides near homes, schools, and other places where children congregate.
The petitioners assert that the agency does not adequately consider the exposures of children to pesticide drift, especially children who live in agricultural areas and they are requesting that the agency impose requirements for "no-spray" buffer zones near homes, schools, day-care centers, and parks.
In 1996, Congress required EPA to set standards by 2006 to protect children from pesticides. The petitioners contend that the agency has so far failed to ensure that children are protected from pesticide drift.
Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer filed the October petition on behalf of farm worker groups United Farm Workers, Oregon-based Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO as well as Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington-based Sea Mar Community Health Center, Pesticide Action Network, and the million-plus member MomRising.org.
"We're heartened by today's announcement, said Brimmer. "Children who live, go to school, or play near farms and orchards deserve to be kept safe from poisonous pesticides."
"Under the last administration, our petition for these protections might very easily have been consigned to a black hole," said Brimmer. "This new administration has instead committed itself to quickly bring this issue before the public - a welcome move in the right direction. We hope this momentum continues and that on-the-ground safety standards for children advance before another growing season begins."
In a background paper on exposure of children to pesticide spray, the petitioners point out that in 2007, air monitoring conducted near the Southwoods Elementary School in Hastings, Florida, detected at least one of four pesticides - endosulfan, diazinon, trifluralin, and chlorothalonil - in every sample, sometimes at levels that may pose serious health risks to young children.
The EPA is soliciting public comments on the petition. The agency says it will evaluate the petition and take whatever action may be appropriate after the evaluation is complete.
For further information and to submit comments, please see docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0825 at http://www.regulations.gov.
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