EPA's mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment
air, water, and land upon which life depends. For 30 years, EPA has been working
for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.
Who We Are
EPA employs approximately 18,000 people in Washington, DC, 10 regional offices, and 17
labs across the country. EPA employs a highly educated, technically trained staff, more
than half of whom are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists. A
large number of employees are legal, public affairs, financial, and computer specialists.
EPA is led by the Administrator who is appointed by the President of the United
What We Do
EPA provides leadership in the nation's environmental science, research, education and
assessment efforts. EPA works closely with other federal agencies, state and local
governments, and Indian tribes to develop and enforce regulations under existing
environmental laws. EPA is responsible for researching and setting national standards for
a variety of environmental programs and delegates to states and tribes responsibility for
issuing permits, and monitoring and enforcing compliance. Where national standards are not
met, EPA can issue sanctions and take other steps to assist the states and tribes in
reaching the desired levels of environmental quality. The Agency also works with
industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution
prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.
In July of 1970, the White House and Congress worked together to establish the EPA in
response to the growing public demand for cleaner water, air and land. Prior to the
establishment of the EPA, the national government was not structured to make a coordinated
attack on the pollutants which harm human health and degrade the environment. The EPA was
assigned the daunting task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment
and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner environment a
Office of Pesticide Programs http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/
Our mission: To protect public health and the environment from
the risks posed by pesticides and to promote safer means of pest control.
Because pesticides are found or used in almost every home, business,
and school, as well as in parks and other public places, this mission is both challenging
and complex. OPP must consider both the risks pesticides pose to human health and the
environment, and the benefits they offer to society. OPP is aided in its mission by the
Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996.
Protecting the Public
One of OPP's main concerns is increased protection for the public,
especially for infants and children. OPP seeks to educate consumers, as well as to keep
them informed about the risks of pesticides. The health of infants and children has a high
priority, since they are more vulnerable to pesticides than adults. OPP has taken extra
measures in order to protect children from risk. For example, if pesticide tolerances are
not safe for children, they will not be approved by OPP.
By promoting safer means of pest control, OPP can help prevent health
risks as well as environmental pollution. Safer types of pesticides include
naturally-occurring alternatives, such as hormones or bacteria, instead of chemical
pesticides. Another way in which OPP promotes safer pesticides is by reviewing older
pesticides in order to make sure they meet current safety standards.
Who We Are
OPP consists of approximately 900 persons in nine
divisions which support the registration and review of environmental and human health
information on pesticides. Professional areas include experts in chemistry, biology,
entomology, toxicology, agriculture, economics, public health, law and many other
disciplines. We work with other government agencies, federal advisory committees, states,
grower groups, environmental and consumer groups, academia, industry, and many other
EPA regulates the use of pesticides under the authority
of two federal statutes. The Federal
Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides an overview of the
regulation, sale, distribution and use of pesticides in the U.S. FIFRA authorizes EPA to
review and register pesticides for specified uses. EPA also has the authority to suspend
or cancel the registration of a pesticide if subsequent information shows that continued
use would pose unreasonable risks. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
(FFDCA) authorizes EPA to set maximum residue levels, or tolerances, for pesticides used in or on
foods or animal feed. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA) amended FIFRA and
FFDCA setting tougher safety standards for new and old pesticides and to make uniform
requirements regarding processed and unprocessed foods.
As amended by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA),
significant changes have occurred in the way EPA manages antimicrobial registration
activities. A turning point in improving antimicrobial pesticide registrations occurred
with the creation of a self-contained Antimicrobials Division (AD) in the Office of
Pesticide Programs. AD provides full regulatory services for all antimicrobial pesticides
which includes product registrations, amendments, and reregistrations.
According to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
(FIFRA), an antimicrobial pesticide is a pesticide that is intended to (i)
disinfect, sanitize, reduce, or mitigate growth or development of microbiological
organisms; or (ii) protect inanimate objects, industrial processes or systems, surfaces,
water, or other chemical substances from contamination, fouling, or deterioration caused
by bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, algae, or slime. This does not include
products which target microorganisms on living man or living animals, yet it encompasses
pesticides with a wide array of uses. For example, products regulated by antimicrobial
pesticides act as preserving agents in paints, metalworking fluids, wood supports, and
many other products to prevent their deterioration.
The products regulated by the Antimicrobials Division are varied.
Antimicrobials are especially important because many are public health pesticides. They
help to control microorganisms that can cause human disease. Antimicrobial public health
pesticides are used as disinfectants in medical settings, and EPA also registers many
consumer products as disinfectants, which consumers use to decrease the number of microbes
on surfaces. Public health pesticides are reviewed for efficacy as well as safety.
Approximately 5,000 antimicrobial pesticide products registered with EPA contain one or
more of 256 active ingredients.
Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention
For much of its history, the primary function of OPP has been to register and regulate
pesticides, particularly chemical pesticides. In recent years, however, OPP has begun to
shift from simply regulating pesticides to promoting systems of pest management that
better protect health and the environment, and enhance the quality of our lives. This
approach recognizes that pesticides are only one element in controlling pests and that, in
some cases, non-chemical alternatives can be as effective as chemical pesticides with
fewer health or environmental risks. Related to this shift in approach have been efforts
to "reinvent" OPP's ways of conducting its work.
An important initiative in this area is the creation of
the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, that is devoted to biologically-based
pesticides and to measures that reduce pesticide risks. A major effort being spearheaded
by this division is the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program, a broad effort by
EPA, USDA, and FDA to work with pesticide users and others to reduce pesticide risk and
use in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings. BPPD is responsible for
risk/benefit assessment and risk management functions for microbial pesticides; tolerance
reassessment for biopesticides; biochemical pesticides; and plant-pesticides.
Conventional Pesticide Registration
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires that before
anyone can sell or distribute a pesticide in the United States, they must obtain a
registration, or license, from EPA. When making a registration decision, EPA must ensure
that the pesticide, when used according to label directions, will not cause unreasonable
adverse effects to human health or the environment. Registration decisions are based
primarily on EPA's evaluation of the test data provided by applicants. EPA has established
a number of requirements, such as the Good Laboratory Practice Standards, to ensure the
quality and integrity of pesticide data. Depending on the type of pesticide, OPP can
require more than 100 different tests. Testing is needed to determine whether a pesticide
has the potential to cause adverse effects to humans, wildlife, fish, and plants,
including endangered species.
In addition to allowing the use of new pesticides, the
registration program includes many activities related to the ongoing registration of
existing pesticides. This may include, for example, label changes in where and how
pesticides are used in order to reduce risks or in response to requests by registrants.
The Registration Division is responsible for conventional pesticide product registrations,
amendments, registrations, tolerances, experimental use permits, and emergency exemptions
for all pesticides not assigned to BPPD or AD.
In recent years, more than half of new pesticide
registrations have involved biopesticides and other pesticides that pose less risk than
traditional pesticides. Biopesticides include "microbial pesticides" (bacteria,
viruses, or other microorganisms used to control pests), and "biochemical
pesticides," such as pheromones (compounds that disrupt the mating behavior of
insects). The Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division (BPPD) and the Antimicrobial
Pesticides Division (AD) handle the registration activities for these types of pesticides.
OPP is required by 1988 amendments to federal pesticide law (the
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) to review and, as warranted,
reregister all existing pesticide products that contain active ingredients initially
registered before November 1, 1984. The goal is to update labeling and use requirements
and reduce potential risks associated with older pesticide active ingredients -- those
first registered when the standards for government approval were less stringent than they
are today. This comprehensive reevaluation of pesticide safety in light of current
standards is critical to protecting human health and the environment. As of 1996, EPA has
made reregistration decisions on more than 130 pesticides, leaving less than 250 to be
reviewed. More than 200 other pesticides (and 20,000 pesticide products) have been
cancelled since reregistration began.
Special Review is EPA's formal process for determining whether the use of a pesticide
poses unreasonable risks to people or the environment. In making this determination, EPA
must consider the pesticide's risks and benefits. Special Review is designed to allow
formal public input to the decision-making process. A Special Review can result in a
decision to cancel, restrict, or continue the pesticide uses in question.
The Special Review process is set in motion when EPA has reason to
believe that the use of a registered pesticide may pose significant risks to people or the
environment. Over 100 pesticides or groups of closely related pesticides have been
evaluated through Special Review. While reregistration applies to all older pesticides,
Special Reviews apply to those pesticides of particularly serious concern. Recent Special
Review activities have involved the phase-out of cyanazine, a herbicide widely used on
corn, and proposed restrictions on dichlorvos (DDVP), an insecticide used on stored
agricultural commodities, livestock premises, and many other sites.
Field Implementation and Communications
OPP currently manages four major pesticide field programs involving work with pesticide
users and others to ensure safe pesticide use practices are implemented in the field.
These programs include 1) implementing the Worker Protection Standard for agricultural
workers, 2) protecting endangered species, 3) protecting ground water, and 4) ensuring
that applicators of potentially more hazardous pesticides are appropriately trained and
certified in their use. In all of these programs, OPP relies heavily on cooperative
relationships with regional offices, state and tribal pesticide regulatory agencies, other
public and private organizations, and individuals.
OPP also undertakes a variety of other communications efforts to
ensure that the public has the information it needs to make responsible decisions about
pesticides and to promote public health and environmental protection goals. To achieve
this goal, OPP issues announcements and publications, provides information by telephone
and electronic network, responds to written inquiries, maintains a public docket, holds
public meetings, and presents speeches and Congressional testimony.
Policy, Regulations, and Guidance
OPP makes many individual decisions in its registration, reregistration,and special review
programs. To guide these decisions and inform its many stakeholders, OPP develops
regulations, policy documents, guidelines and analyses covering scientific, legal, and
international matters. Active public participation and feedback is critical to the
development of practical pesticide policies. Regulations are published for notice and
comment in the Federal Register. When final,
they are incorporated in the Code of Federal
Regulations. OPP makes other policy and guidance documents available through a variety
of mechanisms, such as the Government Printing Office, direct mailings, and increasingly,
through electronic dissemination.
Highlights among the many policy initiatives currently underway
include : improving protection for infants and children; harmonizing pesticide
requirements with those of other countries; providing technical assistance to developing
countries; and improving the assessment of ecological risks from pesticides.
Information and Program Management
OPP's information and program management efforts are not as publicly visible as some of
its other programs, but without them none of the other programs could operate. Some of the
major tasks underway include enhancing electronic dissemination of information (such as
through this Internet site), maintaining and integrating OPP's information systems,
responding to reports of adverse effects and incidents caused by pesticides, and managing
OPP's budget and human resources.