EPA allows some veterinary use of restricted pesticides

Published on July 15, 2004
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For the benefit of the public, the Environmental Protection Agency has exempted veterinarians, and in some instances, their employees, from pesticide applicator certification regulations.

Individuals applying pesticides classified by the EPA as restricted-use pesticides are required to undergo special training and become certified by their state or the federal government. Veterinarians who use restricted-use pesticides on-label and in "the course of their normal practice" are exempted from those certification requirements "to obtain for the public the unique benefits this group can provide, while maintaining an acceptable level of safety in the use, production, and distribution of pesticides by veterinarians," according to the EPA.

The use of restricted-use pesticides is fairly uncommon in veterinary medicine. But there may be circumstances when veterinarians apply restricted-use pesticides, and veterinarians should be aware of their responsibilities under the EPA-administered Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. This article is the third in a four-part series examining veterinarians' responsibilities under FIFRA, and will focus on veterinary application of restricted-use pesticides.

"The EPA classifies pesticides into two categories: general-use pesticides and restricted-use pesticides. Restricted-use pesticides—which make up about a quarter of total pesticides used—may be applied only by or under the direct supervision of trained and certified applicators," according to the EPA Web site.

"EPA restricts the use of certain pesticides because there is a greater risk associated with their use. However, these pesticides still help to protect human health or the environment," said Michelle C. Yaras from the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Agriculture Division.

The exemption for veterinarians recognizes veterinarians as professionals trained in handling potentially dangerous substances, and gives them some latitude.

"Although EPA strongly recommends that veterinarians keep abreast of advances in pesticide use and technology through appropriate professional continuing education, veterinarians who practice within the bounds of (EPA restrictions on this exemption) are exempt from the certification requirement," according to a 1979 Federal Register Notice that outlines veterinarians' responsibilities under FIFRA.

There are, however, limits on the exemption.

"The regulations explained, however, that this exemption does not apply to veterinarians who are 'in the business of applying pesticides for hire, publicly holding themselves out as a pesticide applicator, or engaged in large-scale use of pesticides," according to EPA regulations. Such activities are not considered part of a normal veterinary practice.

As long as veterinarians are using the restricted-use pesticides in the course of "normal practice" as defined by the EPA, the exemption also is extended to regular employees of the veterinarian when they apply a restricted-use pesticide under the direct supervision of the veterinarian.

The AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents recently reviewed this policy and supports it.