EPA Proposal Seeks Reduction in Pesticide Exposures

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The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced a proposed rule overturning a Trump-era change related to pesticide applications. The proposal would return pesticide Application Exclusion Zone requirements to the standard set in the 2015 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.

In 2020, the Trump administration published a rule reducing the Application Exclusion Zone, or AEZ requirements.

Michal Freedhoff, EPA Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator, explains. “The original 2015 rule require either a 100 foot or 25 foot zone around pesticide spraying depending on the droplet size, which is a measure of how easily a pesticide can drift and accidentally expose people. The 2020 rule removed the 100 foot zone category altogether and created a general 25 foot zone for all pesticide spraying.”

The AEZ is the area surrounding an ongoing pesticide application that people must not enter to avoid exposure. An AEZ moves with the equipment during applications to protect farmworkers and bystanders that could be contacted by pesticides.

The new proposal would revert back to the requirements included in the 2015 rule. Meanwhile, a court-ordered stay has prevented the 2020 rule from going into effect according to Freedhoff; “Yes, the 2015 rule has remained in effect because of the stay, but of course, the 2020 rules remain on the books. So, this step is an important one to ensuring the protections in our regulations.”

Ryne Yarger, EPA Environmental Protection Specialist, says EPA is proposing to retain some provisions in the 2020 AEZ Rule. “So, we are proposing to provide what’s called an immediate family exemption for farm owners, so this would allow owners and their immediate family, thinking like grandmothers, spouses, children, for example, to remain in their home if it falls within the AEZ, provided that the home is completely enclosed, that there’s no drift entering their house or wherever they may be at that given time. There are questions that we are seeking public comment on about how that might look from an enforcement perspective, to help provide some regulatory relief for smaller family farms.”

The proposed rule is available for public comment for 30 days at www.regulations.gov.

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