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Remembering Regulatory Milestones

By Heather Gooch
July 1, 2003

When Pest Control magazine began life as Exterminators Log in 1933, industry regulations were in their infancy. However, there was just enough concern over the government’s growing interest in regulating fumigants that local associations began to form. With FDR’s National Recovery Administration program and resulting fair trade codes (minimum salaries for employees, maximum hours per week, fair prices and fair competition), pest controllers decided to organize into the National Association of Exterminators and Fumigators — today’s National Pest Management Association.

In June 1947, the first major regulatory legislation was unveiled — and it still is in use today. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) was passed to require registration of chemicals, as well as regulate their efficacy, safety and marketing standards. It also required operator certification and registration. Since its introduction, the act has been amended several times to stay relevant.

While it can be argued that government interaction caused the industry to act professionally and be held accountable for protecting public health, government for the most part stayed out of pest control for decades.

And then, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded.

Silent Spring makes noise

The publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal 1963 book, Silent Spring, is considered a turning point in history. It empowered the environmentalist movement, which pushed for the founding of the EPA in 1970. Among the agency’s tasks was to decide how to enforce FIFRA, which previously had been under the USDA’s rule.

This led to banning DDT in 1973 and taking chlordane off the market for general pest control in 1975, then banning it altogether in 1988. EPA’s first list of restricted-use products was issued in 1978, and in 1988 “FIFRA Lite” was passed — where the agency established registration fees, label changes and a new “negligible risk” policy for residues in processed foods.

In 1988, the NPMA began an annual tradition of Legislative Day, an event where PMPs could canvass Capitol Hill on behalf of industry issues. While the lobbying sometimes had a positive effect — take the proposed changes to the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act in 1996 that never came to pass, for example — it was no match for the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).

Filling the risk cup

Food safety took center stage in 1996 when the FQPA was passed. Jargon like “risk cup” and “aggregate and cumulative risks” became routine.

The legislation was meant to supercede a standard that had been in place since 1958, courtesy of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The FFDCA included the Delaney Clause (named after New York Congressman James Delaney), which addressed the threshold for cancer-causing food additives, including pesticide residues. The new standard was designed to have lower thresholds, since scientific calculations of thresholds had become much more sophisticated than what was available in the 1950s. In fact, it added an additional 10-fold margin of safety for children.

“The primary impact of the FQPA on PMPs is the potential decrease in the number of pesticide treatment options available,” Greg Crosslin, Crosslin & Associates, Montgomery, AL, wrote in a 2000 Pest Control article (“PMPs can protect themselves in the wake of the FQPA,” FQPA Special Edition, September).

Crosslin’s warning was warranted, with the loss of product mainstays such as Ficam and Dursban, and more on the horizon. On the plus side, the FQPA has forced manufacturers to look in earnest for new active ingredients with lower toxicities, and PMPs are using chemicals more judiciously than before because of label restrictions and higher costs.

Besides the FQPA, other legislation is still at the forefront of the industry, be it at the state level for budget concerns or IPM programs (see our “Legislative Update” special section, starting on page S1) or the federal level with the threat of another incarnation of the School Environment Protection Act. At press time, factors like the start of the 2004 campaign and an unnamed successor to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman promise to keep things interesting.