WSSA warns that restricted use pesticides require extra care

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The owner of a horticultural company was fined recently for using a restricted use pesticide (RUP) in ways that were inconsistent with the product label. The product’s use was restricted due to human health concerns, but workers had applied the product without proper training or the required personal protective equipment (PPE). In another recent case, a company was fined because it failed to keep the records required for RUPs. 

“RUPs are pesticides that have been determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to have a greater chance of causing harm to public health, farm workers, domestic animals, wildlife, certain crops, water, or other sensitive organisms or sites,” says Gina Alessandri, President of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials and Director, Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.  “As a result, there are more stringent requirements regarding applicator training, oversight and record-keeping, as well as product-specific requirements, such as more extensive PPE.” 

The concept of restricted use pesticides originated in California over 60 years ago, when there were concerns about protecting sensitive crops from phenoxy herbicide drift. In 1972, amendments to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) established RUPs at the national level.  

What triggers an RUP classification? A variety of human health concerns may result in a product being restricted. Examples include acute toxicity if exposed to a product through the mouth, skin or lungs, or the ability of the active ingredient to cause genetic changes (mutagenicity) or tumors (oncogenicity) in laboratory tests. 

Environmental concerns may also result in an RUP classification, such as toxicity to bees, fish, birds or certain crops, ground or surface water concerns, or a history of accidental exposure.  Products may also be restricted based on how complex they are to use (requiring specialized training, equipment and/or clothing). 

Here are a few important points to remember about restricted use pesticides: 

  • The label. When a pesticide is classified as restricted use, the words "Restricted Use Pesticide" will appear at the top of the front panel. The reason for the RUP classification will usually be shown as well. 
  • The formulation. The RUP classification is for a specific formulation(s).  For example, a highly concentrated emulsifiable concentrate (EC) formulation of an active ingredient may be restricted, while the granular formulation or low concentration EC may not be restricted.  
  • The intended use. The formulation may be restricted for agricultural, residential or indoor uses, all uses, use on certain crops, etc.  
  • The sale. Distributors, dealers and retailers must be licensed to sell RUPs. They must carefully document these sales and must sell only to buyers who are certified (specially trained) to apply RUPs for the intended use.    
  • The application. The RUP may only be applied by a certified applicator or someone under a certified applicator’s direct supervision, and only for those purposes covered by the applicator's certification. 
  • The RUP list. Some states use the EPA’s RUP list as their RUP list, while other states require that certain additional products be restricted, usually due to local conditions that result in environmental concerns. A product on the EPA’s RUP list must also be restricted for use in every state that registers it. Some restricted use products may be federally registered but not registered at all in certain states. 

“Classification of a pesticide as restricted use to protect human health or the environment is a critical component of the pesticide registration process,” says Alessandri. “It allows certain products to be available by establishing stricter conditions of use.”

If you have questions about a restricted use pesticide product, call the pesticide manufacturer, your Cooperative Extension Service or your State Pesticide Regulatory Agency.

This is the fifth in a series on pesticide stewardship sponsored by the Weed Science Society of America.

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