Pesticide Applicators Should Be 18, EPA Says

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency announced its proposal for stronger training and certification standards, including a new minimum age requirement, for those who apply “acutely toxic” pesticides. The soon-to-be published proposed regulation would apply to approximately one million commercial applicators, and private applicators such as farmers and ranchers, the agency noted in its announcement.
     The proposal addresses the use of “restricted use pesticides,” or RUPs, which currently require certification for application under federal regulations. RUPs are not available for purchase by the general public.
     Although some states already have elements of the proposal in place, the new action would strengthen existing standards, add new requirements, and “ensure a consistent level of protection among states,” the agency said.
     State agencies issue licenses to pesticide applicators after they demonstrate their ability to use RUPs safely under an EPA-approved program.
     The new proposed rule would establish “a first time-ever nation-wide minimum age of 18 for certified applicators,” in addition to requirements for mandatory recertification every three years, additional certifications for fumigation and aerial applications, and new first-time annual safety trainings and increased oversight. One of the required trainings would target the issue of reducing “take-home” pesticide exposure to protect workers’ families.
     In addition to strengthening competency standards, the proposal aims to promote interstate recognition of applicator licenses while streamlining requirements for states, tribes and federal agencies to administer their own certification programs. The action would provide “expanded options for establishing certification programs in Indian Country that acknowledge tribal sovereignty,” the agency said.
     “We are committed to keeping our communities safe, protecting our environment and protecting workers and their families,” Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said. “By improving training and certification, those who apply these restricted use pesticides will have better knowledge and ability to use these pesticides safely.”
     Through the expected reduction of up to 800 acute pesticide-related illnesses per year, the agency estimates that the proposal would provide an estimated $80.5 million in benefits and save $47.2 million in costs.
     The EPA said it has been engaging stakeholders regarding the need for this proposal since the 1990s. “This proposal is a synthesis of the feedback received,” the agency said.
     The agency will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

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