Laws and Labels

Always Follow The Label Instructions

Always Follow The Label Instructions

Anyone who has purchased a pesticide product in the US since the 1970s may have noticed the writing on the container, known as the pesticide label. The label and its contents must be approved by the EPA as part of the registration that is required before the product can be legally sold. The label contains instructions for use, which are a legal requirement. Use of a pesticide in a manner that is not approved in the label is a legal violation that could result in civil or even criminal charges. Is the EPA being heavy handed? Misuse of pesticides in the past have caused severe poisonings, contaminated houses and other building to make them uninhabitable and even created superfund sites requiring millions of tax dollars to remediate.

Companies that want approval to sell a product must provide data to the EPA demonstrating that their product can be used safely. The testing is expensive, but remediation can be even more costly and it is difficult to put a price on debilitating injuries. The current testing requirements are acceptable to all companies selling products as part of the cost of doing business. EPA regulations insure that companies that market products that can be used safely are not undercut by unscrupulous competitors selling products that are cheaper but unsafe. The law protects consumers from potentially dangerous products. The decision of whether or not to pursue a market or a pesticide use is left to the seller.

In Indiana, a substantial number of cases of misuse of the insecticide, Termidor have been reported. Termidor is registered and has EPA approval for outdoor use to control termites. The manufacturer has never marketed the product for indoor use or pursued product testing for indoor use. The data on whether or not the product would be safe for indoor use has never been reviewed by EPA. Therefore, Termidor cannot legally be used indoors. Pesticide applicators, in violation of the law, have discovered that Termidor is effective against ants, cockroaches and other indoor pests.

An interesting aspect of pesticide law is that most of the enforcement is done by the States. At least 3 cases of Termidor misuse are under investigation by the Indiana State Chemists Office and fines have been levied. In the most widespread misuse, a sales district of the company, Ecolab, used Termidor illegally in multiple cities in violation of Federal Law (and corporate policy). When the Indiana State Chemists Office notified the Ecolab headquarters, they cooperated with the investigation and a fine of $18,000 for 72 violations of Federal Law (Misuse of pesticide unauthorized by the label) was reduced to $9,000. The company fired all the applicators involved and retrained all its applicators in the use of Termidor to comply with legal (label) requirements. The State Chemists Office revoked the pesticide applicators license of the district manager and suspended the licenses of an assistant manager and 3 applicators.

The customers of pest control companies want relief from their insect pests problems. In some cases relief requires a change in behavior by the customers such as improved sanitation and cleanliness. The temptation to misuse insecticides as an “easy” solution may be strong but the potential health, safety and legal consequences are overriding reasons to always follow the label instructions.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Environment, Health, Pest Management, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

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