Further use restrictions could be coming for pyrethroids, a family of pesticides widely used by the pest management industry.

The products are undergoing a registration review process by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is required to review pesticides every 15 years using the latest science under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This is the first time EPA is reviewing pyrethroids as a class rather than as individual chemicals.

In December, the agency released preliminary ecological risk assessments that found pyrethroids pose a “clear risk to aquatic organisms,” such as fish and aquatic plants. This concern initially was raised when the chemicals were detected in the sediment of urban streams in California in 2005, and by 2012 EPA and the California Department of Pesticide Regulations had added pyrethroid label restrictions to reduce pyrethroid runoff into urban waterways.

Pyrethroid manufacturers are concerned that EPA’s screening-level risk assessments do not take into account “the real-world use of pyrethroids, as well as the impact of the new mitigation measures,” said Ann Orth, Ph.D., the senior global regulatory manager for FMC Agricultural Solutions and chair of the Pyrethroid Working Group (PWG).

As such, PWG urged end users to share information on pyrethroid use patterns so it could submit this data during EPA’s public comment period, which was extended through March.

In addition to PWG, which represents AMVAC, BASF, Bayer, FMC, Syngenta and Valent BioSciences, the National Pest Management Association and RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) are submitting comments to defend the use of pyrethroids. NPMA, working with ASPCRO (Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials) and SFIREG (State FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group), also held a workshop to help EPA officials better understand how pyrethroids are used by the industry.

“Without input from end users, it is likely that there will be more restrictions that would be beyond the level of the California regulations,” which are more stringent than federal ones, when EPA makes its final decision on these products sometime in 2018, said Orth.

REACHING OUT. In the meantime PWG is urging pest management professionals to be exceptional stewards of pyrethroids. In 2014 the group began reaching out to a national audience to ensure these products are used properly in order to protect their future as well as the environment, said Jill Holihan, director of product development and regulatory affairs at FMC Global Specialty Solutions and the chair of PWG’s communications committee.

“If we cannot achieve improvements, if we cannot demonstrate good stewardship, then we’ll start to lose products; we are not an industry that can afford to lose anything right now,” said Jim Steed, president of Neighborly Pest in Sacramento, Calif., and chair of the legislative committee of Pest Control Operators of California.

With hundreds of groups advocating for the environment and against pesticide use, “our story has to include genuine, concrete examples of proactive stewardship, otherwise our voice in the regulatory argument is severely weakened,” Steed added.

“Pyrethroids are one of the most effective, affordable and proven classes of pesticides on the market,” said Orth. Stewardship of these products not only helps protect people and the environment, but also ensures that consumers and professionals have access to an important pest management tool that is essential in protecting crops, people and structures from disease and pests.

Based on positive EPA feedback, PWG expanded education programs that it initially created to help consumers and pest professionals comply with tougher California pyrethroid labels.

“Our ongoing education campaigns provide a vehicle for pyrethroid manufacturers to work with EPA to raise awareness among the users of our products and (identify) steps we all can take to protect the environment,” said Orth.

The Apply Responsibly campaign is aimed at educating consumers on the proper application, storage and disposal of pyrethroids. The website even features a widget where consumers can enter their ZIP code to learn where to dispose of pesticides safely. New how-to videos and an expanded social media campaign are targeting homeowners in California, New York, Florida, Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia, Indiana and Georgia.

The PWG2PMP program is geared to pest professionals and encourages application methods that meet the more rigorous California mandates. “We make this distinction in our materials, but we generally recommend the most stringent methods to minimize confusion,” said Orth.

For the credibility of the industry, “we need to do pest control the most intelligent way we can, not just the legal way,” said Steed.

Applicators are advised to always read and follow the product label; those who don’t adhere to labels are jeopardizing the future of these products. “All it takes to discredit 90 good users is one misuser,” Steed reminded.

PWG also is advertising in industry trade journals and providing handouts that PMPs can give to customers. Representatives of the group also communicated one-on-one with PMPs at its booth at the NPMA PestWorld conference in October.

In addition, a new Pyrethroid Resource Center seeks to dispel misinformation about pyrethroids and is for anyone seeking basic information, studies and scientific material about these products.

NEXT STEPS. After EPA reviews feedback received during the comment period, it will issue a Proposed Interim Decision, expected in December 2017. Following another comment period, the agency will issue its final decision document in 2018.

Holihan said she is unsure what changes the new presidential administration will bring to the EPA and pesticide registration. “We believe that regulation must be based on science and transparency. It is critical that EPA maintain adequate staff to review and register pesticides so that the processes that keep pesticides available for public use are protected and maintained,” she said.

The key will be not fighting the regulatory process but guiding it, which has worked in California even though no resolution is ever perfect, said Darren Van Steenwyk, technical director of Clark Pest Control in Lodi, Calif. Still, “there’s a really good chance that we will have to continue to change what we do” to stay in compliance with pyrethroid regulations, he said.

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine.