Weeding Through The Regulations

Saturday July 12, 2008


Mr Pest Control


I have purchased over-the-counter herbicides to spray on Wyoming state property using a four wheeler with a 12' boom and hand sprayer, as well as one person walking with a back pack sprayer into different areas. What would you recommend for PPE, and should any signage have the name of the herbicide, and how long does it stay up? Do I need a license for over the counter products?

Mr Pest Control


I'm going to do a bit of a cop out here, and ask that you verify the requirements for your state with the local regulatory or licensing agency there. Every state may have their own specific regulations regarding posting, licensing, and required PPE for employees, which I assume you are referring to with the other 2 people assisting in this weed management program. Your email address suggests that you are an employee of the state of Wyoming, and thus you may be applying the herbicides to property owned, shall we say, by your employer. This can be important with respect to the licensing requirements, where you likely would have to be a licensed business if you were a private contractor, but possibly not when doing the applications only for your employer.

The EPA requires licensing or certification for pesticide use only when you are purchasing and using a product that is Restricted Use, in which case the product Label would have this statement on it in big, bold letters. Products sold on retail shelves should never be restricted use, based on either their active ingredients or the package size. For example, 2,4-D is a restricted use pesticide in California, under a listing created by the regulatory agency here, but in smaller package sizes it can be sold to unlicensed homeowners. Check with your local agency to see if they have any similar state-specific listing of herbicides that might require you to get a permit for its use. However, again referring to the state I am particularly familiar with (California), a person using a non-restricted use pesticide only on the property of his employer would not be required to be licensed or certified. I, personally, would heartily encourage anyone using pesticides regularly as part of his employment to take the time to learn about them and take the state exam for their use. There are just too many things that can go wrong when you do not thoroughly understand the products and the laws governing their use, and taking the step to get certified for them is a very important part of good product stewardship.

Likewise with posting. The EPA may not require that you post areas you plan to treat, but your state may have their own regulations on this. On pesticide labels you can find a box that states "Agricultural Use Requirements", and this information will be present on any pesticide label with uses on "agricultural" sites, meaning any site where a product is grown for sale - food crops, nurseries, greenhouses, sod farms, etc. Within this specific information there will be requirements for posting, but as long as you are not using the product on an agricultural site, as defined by EPA, posting would not be a federal requirement. But, with the continuing scrutiny on pesticide uses there are states that are formulating their own requirements in this area, perhaps in particular for herbicide use.

As far as PPE, you must follow the product Label for each product you use, and I again heartily recommend that you read every word on every label very carefully. There can be serious inconsistencies among different labels, some requiring more PPE than others for various parts of the application. For example, a label might require wearing a face shield when mixing the product in the tank, might require washing the gloves BEFORE removing them, might require wearing a respirator, etc. There also may be state-specific PPE requirements for "employees" who apply pesticides, as there are in California under the "Worker Safety Regulations" as outlined in the "Pesticide Safety Information Series". The basics here, and probably a good idea in any state, are long pants, long sleeved shirt, safety glasses at a minimum, shoes and socks, and waterproof gloves that extend over the shirt sleeves. Gone should be the days of using any sprayed-on pesticides with short sleeves, no eye protection, no gloves.

Product labels may be purposely vague on this, stating only "avoid" contact with skin or eyes, or "avoid" inhalation. Others get more specific, requiring specific kinds of gloves or eyewear. Generally speaking, with respect to respirators, if the label says "avoid inhalation" you may get away with no respirator if the treatment is done down onto the ground and no mist is blowing up into the breathing zone. But, if the label states "avoid vapors" the respirator that could intercept vapors should be worn. Regardless of just how toxic any pesticide truly is, we must remember that it is toxic, and our more extensive use of it means that our exposure to it also is increased, and why not put on the PPE that permits us to avoid exposure to it?

The posting is one that you definitely need to discuss with your regulatory folks. Again, your email suggests you may be applying the products to a school site, and all the School Pesticide Use regulations may come into play. In many states there is a requirement to post the area to be treated prior to the application, and to leave the posting in place for a specified length of time following the application. You need to know exactly what your state requires in order to do it legally.

Mr. Pest Control

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Please note, Mr. Pest Control is answering questions supplied by PMP customers across North America. His answers are generated from industry and manufacturer-provided information. The answer may not be specific to the laws and regulations for your State, Province, Territory or Country. In addition, products mentioned may not be registered and or available in all areas. Always check with your local Univar office for specific information to your area. Always read and follow label directions.