You are here: Home Blog Minimum Risk Pesticides

Minimum Risk Pesticides

by aseligmann — last modified Jul 19, 2010 12:00 AM
Filed Under:

Federal law requires that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate pesticides that are defined to include products such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and rodenticides. Pesticides must undergo a registration process that helps identify health and environmental hazards.

Federal law requires that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate pesticides that are defined to include products such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and rodenticides. Pesticides must undergo a registration process that helps identify health and environmental hazards.

In 1996, EPA created a new class of products - minimum risk pesticides - that did not have to be registered. (These pesticides are often referred to as "exempt" products.) The goal was to let pesticides that posed little or no risk become available to consumers without the manufacturers going through the expensive and time-consuming registration process. The EPA would also benefit by being able to focus resources on higher risk pesticides.

The ground rules for qualifying for minimum risk status are very specific, including restrictions on ingredients. All components of these products must come from lists of both active and inert ingredients that "are demonstrably safe for the intended use." The active ingredients kill, destroy, mitigate, or repel the pests named on the label, while the inert ingredients help the product work better in other ways.

Clove oil, corn gluten meal, citric acid and sodium lauryl sulfate (common in personal care products) are examples from the 31 possible active ingredients. There are many more inert ingredients eligible for use in minimum risk products. Examples include soybean oil or lecithin that can act as a surfactant by helping the pesticide stick to leaf surfaces. Water or an oil such as mineral oil can act as solutions in which active ingredients are dissolved. Vinegar, used as an inert ingredient, can help control pH (acidity) in a product.

EPA points out that an inert ingredient should not be included in a minimum risk product with the intent that it act like an active ingredient. For example, manufacturers of minimum risk herbicides who market vinegar as a weed-killing component are subject to enforcement action by the EPA because vinegar is only permitted as an inert ingredient in these products.

Minimum risk pesticides must also meet other conditions. All ingredients - both active and inert - must be listed on the product label. By contrast, labels on registered pesticides must identify only the active ingredients; inert ingredients are considered to be trade secrets.

The labels cannot include any false or misleading statements such as implying endorsement by the EPA or making efficacy-based claims.

Labels may not make any claims related to public health by suggesting protection from diseases associated with insect, rodent or microbial pests. A label may say "repels mosquitoes" but not "repels mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus." EPA is now considering options for making sure that the minimum risk pesticides used for health protection are actually effective against the target pests.

More detailed information about minimum risk pesticides is available in the sources listed below.

 


SOURCES

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008.
Inert ingredients eligible for FIFRA 25(b) pesticide products (Last updated July 10, 2008)
http://www.epa.gov/opprd001/inerts/section25b_inerts.pdf

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008.
Minimum risk pesticides. (Last updated October 15, 2008)
http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/biopesticides/regtools/25b_list.htm

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008.
Minimum risk pesticides: Permitted inerts (Last updated October 15, 2008)
http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/biopesticides/regtools/25b/25b-inerts.htm

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008.
Minimum risk pesticides: Prohibited label language. (Last updated October 15, 2008)
http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/biopesticides/regtools/25b/25b-language.htm

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2000.
Pesticide registration (PR) Notice 2000-6: Minimum risk pesticides exempted under FIFRA Section 25(b) Clarification of issues. (May 7, 2000)
http://www.epa.gov/PR_Notices/pr2000-6.pdf