Risks Remain Uncertain While Prohibited Safety Claims Continue RELEASED .__~ . .._. -..._ I_-._._.. I....--.---_-I-....---.------. -;gYJ. _.....-.......-. Pfo 99 -- I (;A()' IZ('lf:I)-!wI:l~1 United States G&O General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20648 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-23878 1 March 23,199O The Honorable Harry M. Reid Chairman, Subcommittee on Toxic Substances, Environmental Oversight, Research and Development Committee on Environment and Public Works United States Senate Dear Mr. Chairman: This report responds to your request for information on protecting the public from exposure to the risk of lawn,care pesticides. You asked us to review the information that the lawn care pesticides industry provides to the public about the safety of its products and the federal enforcement actions taken against false and misleading lawn care pesticide safety claims. As requested, we also reviewed the reregistration status of 34 widely used lawn care pesticides to determine what progress had been made in reassessing the long-term health risks associated with their use. As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, and to other interested parties and make copies available to others upon request. This report was prepared under the direction of Richard L. Hembra, Director, Environmental Protection Issues (202) 2756111. Major contributors are listed in appendix I. Sincerely yours, J. Dexter Peach Assistant Comptroller General EjcecutiveSummary / The professional lawn care business has developed into a billion dollar Pu+pose industry over the last decade as more and more people have turned to such companies for lawn maintenance. To create beautiful lawns free of weeds and pests, professional lawn care companies rely on,,chemical pes- ticides. Many homeowners purchase this service, while others purchase and apply these pesticides themselves. As with most pesticides, these chemicals have the potential to create serious problems affecting human health and the environment. The range of concerns about the risks of pesticides has expanded to include potential chronic health effects, such as cancer and birth defects, and adverse ecological effects. Currently these pesticides are being applied in large amounts without complete knowledge of their safety. Concerns have been raised about protecting the public from exposure to the risk of lawn care pesticides. As a result, the Chairman, Subcommit- tee on Toxic Substances, Environmental Oversight, Research and Devel- opment, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, requested that GAOreview the information that the lawn care pesticides indus- try-manufacturers, distributors, and professional applicators-pro- vides to the public about the safety of its products, federal enforcement actions taken against lawn care pesticide safety advertising claims, and the reregistration status of 34 lawn care pesticides. Under the, ,Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (E‘IFRA), B%kground the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to evaluate the risks and benefits of a proposed pesticide before it is registered for use. More recently, the FIFRAAmendments of 1988 (known as FIFRA '88) imposed mandatory time frames and provided resources to help acceler- ate the reregistration of older pesticides, including those used in lawn care products. Reregistration is the process of bringing approximately 24,000 registered pesticide products into compliance with current data requirements and scientific standards and taking appropriate regulatory action on the basis of this new knowledge. Last May GAOtestified before this Subcommittee on the status of EPA'Sreregistration program and con- cluded that EPAhad not made substantial progress in reassessing the risks of these pesticides. FIFRAalso authorizes EPAto take enforcement action against advertising claims made by pesticide manufacturers and distributors. This author- ity, however, does not extend to claims made by professional applicators such as lawn care companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FX), under its own legislative authority to protect consumers against false Page 2 GAO/RCED-90-124 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Executive Summary and deceptive advertising, can, however, take enforcement action against professional pesticide applicators as well as manufacturers and distributors. GAOreported in 1986 that the pesticides industry sometimes makes safety claims for its products that EPAconsiders to be false and mislead- ing and that EPAhad taken few formal enforcement actions against safety claims. GAOconcluded that EPAhad made limited use of its authority over unacceptable advertising safety claims and recom- mended that EPAtake steps to strengthen and improve its program for regulating such claims. , GAOfound that the lawn pesticides industry continues to make prohib- Resblts in Brief ited claims that its products are safe or nontoxic. Such claims are pro- hibited by FIFRAbecause they differ substantially from claims allowed to be made as part of the approved registration. EPAconsiders these claims to be false and misleading. GAOalso found that EPAhas yet to establish an effective program to determine whether pesticide manufacturers and distributors are, in fact, complying with FIFXArequirements. In addition, EPAdoes not have authority over safety claims made by professional applicators. The FTCcan act against false and misleading pesticide safety advertising by manufacturers and distributors, but it has taken no enforcement action in this area since 1986. FIT officials told GAOthat it prefers to defer to EPAin such matters because of EPA'Sexpertise and legislative authority. FTChas not acted against professional applicator claims because it believes EPAhas been handling such claims on an informal basis. Finally, EPAis still at a preliminary stage in reassessing the risks of lawn care pesticides under its reregistration program, which FIFXA‘88 requires to be completed within 9 years. Of the 34 most widely used lawn care pesticides, 32 are older pesticides and subject to reregistra- tion Not one of these, however, has been completely reassessed. Page 3 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Ekecutlve Summary 1 Prihcipal Findings Enf rcement Actions Not GAO'Sreview found that EPAand FTCmake limited use of their authority Bei g Taken on Pesticide over unacceptable safety advertising claims. GAOfound the same situa- tion nearly 4 years ago and recommended that EPAtake steps to Saf1”ty Advertising Claims strengthen and improve its program for regulating such claims. Neither EPAnor ITC is taking formal enforcement action against safety claims by manufacturers and distributors. Since 1986 EPAhas taken only one for- mal enforcement action involving a lawn care pesticide safety claim made by a manufacturer, while FTChas taken no enforcement action in this area. EPAofficials told GAOthat safety advertising claims are still a low enforcement priority because of limited resources and because other violations such as pesticide misuse continue to be its primary concern. FTCbelieves EPAis better able to handle pesticide safety claims because of its technical expertise and legislative authority. FTChas not acted against claims by professional pesticide applicators, over which EPAhas no authority, because it believes EPAhas been suc- cessfully handling applicator claims informally through its regional offices. Although EPAand FTCofficials have discussed GAO'S1986 recom- mendation, no formal arrangement has been made to ensure that ques- tionable applicator claims would be given appropriate attention. The lawn care pesticides industry is making claims that its products are safe or nontoxic. GAO'Sreview found nine instances of safety claims, such as “completely safe for humans,” made by manufacturers, distrib- utors, and professional applicators. EPA,using its standards for pesticide labels, considers that these claims, when made by manufacturers and distributors, are false and misleading. Such claims are prohibited by FIFRAbecause they differ substantially from claims allowed to be made as part of the approved registration. GAObelieves that without an effec- tive federal enforcement program, the lawn care pesticides industry will continue to make such claims that could, among other things, persuade consumers to purchase a service they otherwise might not use or dis- courage the use of reasonable precautions to minimize exposure, ‘such as avoiding recently treated areas. Page 4 GAO/RCED-9@134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Executive Summary Heplth Risks of Lawn Care GAO'Sreview of the reregistration status of 34 major lawn care pesti- Peeticides Have Not Been tides determined that EPAis still at a preliminary stage in reassessing the risks of lawn pesticides and has not completely reassessed the Fujly Reassessed health risks of any of the major lawn care pesticides subject to reregis- tration While EPAhas made some progress in identifying the data needs and conditions of reregistration for many of these pesticides, uncertain- I ties about their health risks still exist. For the two most frequently used lawn pesticides-diazinon and &d-D-EPA identified concerns about possible health effects associated with their use. No final determination , has been made as to whether these concerns warrant any further regu- latory action. Until EPAcompletes its reassessments and takes appropriate regulatory action, the public’s health may be at risk from exposure to these pesti- cides. GAObelieves that while the 1988 FIFFU Amendments can help accelerate the reregistration process, reregistering pesticide products and reassessing their risks remain formidable tasks. Because EPAdoes not have authority over professional pesticide applica- Recommendations tor claims, and since FE, which has this authority, prefers to defer to EPAbecause of its technical expertise, GAOrecommends that the Admin- istrator, EPA,seek, in cooperation with appropriate congressional com- mittees, legislative authority over safety claims by professional pesticide applicators. In order to protect the public from prohibited pesticide safety claims, GAOrecommends that the Administrator, EPA,develop an enforcement strategy for monitoring lawn pesticide industry compliance with FIFRA section 12(a)(l)(B) that will make better use of EPAresources. GAOdiscussed the factual information contained in a draft of this report Agency Comments with responsible EPAand ETCofficials. These officials agreed with the facts presented, and their views have been incorporated into the report where appropriate. As requested, GAOdid not obtain official agency comments on the report, Page 6 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Coder&s Executive Summary 2 Chabter 1 8 Introduction Federal Enforcement of Pesticide Safety Advertising Claims 8 Health Risks of Pesticides Must Be Reassessed for 9 Reregistration Objectives, Scope, and Methodology 10 Chabter 2 12 Enfbrcement Actions EPA’s Enforcement Activities FTC’s Enforcement Activities 12 13 Not iBeing Taken on Misleading Safety Claims Made by the Lawn Pesticides 14 Pesiicide Safety Industry Problems With Advertising Claims 16 Advertising Claims EPA Initiatives 17 Conclusions 18 Recommendations to the Administrator, EPA 19 Chapter 3 Hedlth Risks of Lawn Reregistration Status of 34 Major Lawn Care Pesticides Health and Environmental Concerns Associated With Care Pesticides Have Lawn Care Pesticides Not: Been Fully EPA Initiatives 23 Conclusions 24 Reassessed Apbendix Appendix I: Major Contributors to This Report 26 Tables . Table 2.1: Examples of Health and Safety Information 16 Provided by Lawn Care Pesticide Manufacturers, Distributors, and Professional Applicators Table 3.1: EPA’s List of 34 Major Lawn Care Pesticides 21 and Their Reregistration Status Table 3.2: Status of Lawn Care Pesticides in the Special 22 Review Process as of December 1989 Page 6 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Contenia Abbreviations EPA Environmental Protection Agency FIFRA Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Frc Federal Trade Commission GAO General Accounting Office OCM Office of Compliance Monitoring OPP Office of Pesticide Programs RCED Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division Page 7 GAO/RCED-@O-134Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited safety Claima Chapter 1 Introduction Lawn care pesticides, such as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides, are chemicals or biological substances designed to kill and control living organisms -unwanted species of plants, insects, and ani- mals. They are used in places where people live, work, play, or other- wise frequent as part of their daily lives. They are used in gardens, parks, and on lawns and golf courses. Because lawn care pesticides are designed to destroy or control living organisms, exposure to them can be hazardous. According to 1988 estimates provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lawn care pesticides constitute a large and growing mar- ket. Sales of lawn care pesticides in the United States have increased to over $700 million annually and result in about 67 million pounds of active ingredients being applied. Lawn care pesticides account for about 8 percent of the 814 million pounds of active ingredients applied for agricultural purposes. The lawn care service industry also is a big business. It has experienced unprecedented growth in the last decade, and the demand for these ser- vices is still growing. EPAestimates that professional lawn care compa- nies, treating mostly residential lawns, do a $1.5 billion annual business and that as many as 11 percent of single family households use a com- mercial applicator. In our report to this same Subcommittee nearly 4 years ago, entitled Federal Enforcement Nonagricultural Pesticides: Risks and Regulation (GAO/RcED-86-97,April of !PesticideSafety 18, 1986), we determined that the pesticide industry sometimes makes Advertising Claims safety claims for its products that EPAconsiders to be false or mislead- ing. We found that the general public receives misleading information on pesticide hazards and that EPAhad taken few civil penalty enforcement actions against such claims. We concluded that EPAhad made limited use of its authority over unacceptable advertising safety claims and recom- mended that it take steps to strengthen and improve its program for controlling such claims. EPAhas taken few corrective actions since 1986. EPAhas authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenti- tide Act (FIFRA)to take enforcement action against false and misleading advertising claims made by pesticide manufacturers and distributors. Specifically, FIFIW section 12(a)(l)(B) prohibits claims made as part of a pesticide’s distribution and sale that differ substantially from claims made as part of a pesticide’s registration application. Page 0 GAO/R-ml34 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Chapter 1 Introduction Section 1B(a)(l)(B) applies only to the distributors and sellers of pesti- cides, not to the users, such as professional applicators who provide a service of controlling pests without delivering any unapplied pesticide. Thus, EPAhas no enforcement authority over product safety claims made by pesticide applicators, even though they sometimes make claims that would be subject to enforcement action if made by a pesticide distributor. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), under its own legislative authority to protect consumers against false and deceptive advertising, can take enforcement action against pesticide applicators as well as manufactur- ers and distributors. mc considers a pesticide advertisement to be decep- tive if it contains a material representation or omission that is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances. To deter- mine whether an advertisement is deceptive, FTClooks to the net impres- sion created by the advertisement as a whole, rather than individual statements in isolation. In determining what constitutes a reasonable basis in a particular case, FTCconsiders a number of factors relevant to the costs and benefits of substantiating the claims at issue. ~1%also con- siders an advertisement to be illegal if it is unfair. We determined in 1986, however, that FTCseldom used its enforcement authority because it believed that EPAwas better able to deal with pesti- cide safety claims. We recommended that EPAand FTCseek an arrange- ment for controlling claims by professional pesticide applicators. Although EPAand FTCofficials have discussed our recommendation, no formal arrangement has been made to ensure that questionable applica- tor claims would be given appropriate attention. We also reported in 1986 on EPA'Slack of progress in reassessing the Health Risks of long-term (chronic) health risks associated with the use of nonagricul- Pbticides Must Be tural pesticides. We concluded that there is considerable uncertainty Reassessedfor about the potential for these pesticides to cause chronic health effects, such as cancer and birth defects, and that reassessing the health risks of Reregistration using these pesticides as part of the reregistration process may take a long time. Further, we stated last May, in testimony before this same Subcommittee on Toxic Substances, Environmental Oversight, Research and Development, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, * that EPAstill had much work to do in reassessing the risks of older pesti- cides subject to reregistration and had not completely reassessed any of these pesticides. Page 9 GAO/RCED-99-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims , Chapter 1 Introduction Reregistration is the process of bringing the registrations of about 24,000 pesticide products into compliance with current data require- ments and scientific standards and taking appropriate regulatory action on the basis of this new knowledge. FIFRA‘88 imposes mandatory time frames requiring EPAto complete this process over approximately a 9- year period. The Chairman, Subcommittee on Toxic Substances, Environmental Over- Objqctives, Scope,and sight, Research and Development, Senate Committee on Environment Methodology and Public Works, asked us to review the information the lawn pesti- cides industry- manufacturers, distributors, and professional applica- tors-provides to the public about the safety of its products. The objectives of our review were to determine . EPAenforcement actions taken against unacceptable lawn care pesticide safety advertising claims since 1986 and whether such claims were still being made and l the current reregistration status of 34 widely used lawn care pesticides to show what progress has been made in reassessing their health effects. Chapter 2 addresses our first objective dealing with the enforcement of pesticide safety advertising claims, and chapter 3 addresses the reregis- tration status of widely used lawn pesticides. To determine the number and nature of EPA’Senforcement actions against pesticide safety advertising claims, we met with EPAheadquar- ters officials in the Office of Compliance Monitoring (OCM).We also con- tacted FTCofficials for the number and nature of its enforcement actions in this area. We did not, however, contact state agencies nor EPAand FK regional offices to obtain data on actions taken by them due to time con- straints. However, we did ask EPAand FTCheadquarters about their regional office activities. To determine whether pesticide safety claims are still being made by lawn care pesticide manufacturers and distributors, we reviewed pesti- cide advertisements in magazines directed at gardeners, farmers, and other groups likely to use lawn care pesticide products. To obtain safety information provided to the public by professional applicators we tele- phoned 21 companies who service the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area (including Maryland and Virginia) and asked for literature about the safety of the pesticide products they use. We asked EPA’SOffice of Pesticide Programs to review the pesticide safety advertisements and Page 10 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claima Chapter 1 Wroduction literature we obtained to determine whether they would be considered false or misleading under EPA’Spesticide labeling regulations. To determine the current reregistration status of lawn care pesticides, we focused on 34 pesticides that EPAidentified as representing those most widely used for lawn care purposes. We identified those that had registration standards issued for them by matching the 34 pesticides against EPA’SFederal Register notices that classified them into four cate- gories-list A (registration standards issued) and lists B, C, and D (no registration standards issued). Any discrepancies or mismatches were discussed with an official in EPA’SOffice of Pesticide Programs (OPP). We also obtained 1988 and 1989 lawn care pesticide usage data from OPP’S Economic Analysis Branch. To determine which of the 34 pesticides were subject to EPA’SSpecial Review process, we reviewed EPA’SDecember 1989 report on the status of Special Review pesticides. We also reviewed the latest Federal Regis- -ter notices on the Special Review pesticides. Our work was conducted between December 1989 and February 1990 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We discussed the matters contained in this report with EPAand FIT officials. These officials agreed with the facts presented, and their views have been incorporated into the report where appropriate. As requested, we did not obtain official agency comments on the report. Page 11 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims , Ehforcement Actions Not Eking Taken on PesticideSafety Advertising Claims EPAhas taken only one civil penalty enforcement action against false or misleading lawn pesticide safety advertising claims made by manufac- turers and distributors during the 3-year period we reviewed for this report. According to EPA’SCompliance Division Director, advertising safety claims are still a low enforcement priority because of limited resources and because other violations such as pesticide misuse continue to be the Agency’s primary enforcement concerns in the pesticide area. EPAdoes not have an active program to screen pesticide literature nor an enforcement strategy to monitor compliance but reacts to complaints it receives. FIT can act against false and misleading lawn pesticide safety advertis- ing, but it has taken no enforcement action in this area since 1986. FTC, officials told us that it prefers to defer to EPAin such matters because of EPA’Sexpertise and legislative authority. Meanwhile, lawn care pesticide manufacturers and distributors are still making claims that their products are safe or nontoxic. EPA,using its standards for pesticide labels, considers that these claims are false and misleading. Such claims are prohibited by FIFRAbecause they differ sub- stantially from claims allowed to be made as part of the approved regis- tration We reported in 1986 that neither EPAnor FTCwas taking action against safety claims by professional pesticide applicators. In 1990, we again find that neither agency has an effective program to determine whether pesticide applicators are making safety claims about the prod- ucts they use. EPAhas several enforcement alternatives provided by FIFRAfor false and EPA’s Enforcement misleading advertising claims, including civil penalties of not more than Activities $6,000 and criminal penalties of not more than $50,000 and/or 1 year in prison. In addition, EPAcan confiscate a pesticide. Generally, EPA’Sfirst action against an improper advertising claim is an advertising letter, according to its FIF’RAcompliance and enforcement manual. In an adver- tising letter, EPAnotifies a company that its literature contains unaccept- able statements and asks the company to respond in writing, explaining the action it plans to take. Depending on the circumstances and the com- pany’s response, EPAmay then take formal enforcement action. EPAhas taken few formal enforcement actions against unacceptable pes- ticide safety advertising claims since our 1986 report was issued. EPA’S Office of Compliance Monitoring data show that between October 1, 1986, and September 30,1989, EPAtook 17 civil penalty enforcement Page 12 GAO/RCED-99-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Chapter 2 Enforcement ActionsNot Being Taken on Pesticide Sni’ety Advertising Claims actions, other than advertising letters, under FIFRAsection 12(a)(l)(B). Only one of these actions involved a lawn pesticide safety claim. Most of the others involved health claims for disinfectants (a class of pesticides) and claims for uses other than a product’s registered uses. In compari- son, we reported in 1986 that EPAtook 18 civil penalty enforcement actions between January 1,1984, and July 30,1985-a period of 19 months. According to OCM'SCompliance Division Director, pesticide safety adver- tising claims have been and continue to be a low priority for OCMbecause of its limited resources and because other unlawful acts under FIFRA, such as pesticide misuse, are OCM’S primary concerns. For example, EPA provided data that showed that between October 1,1986, and Septem- ber 30, 1989, it took a total of 1,015 enforcement actions under FIFRA section 12. The 17 actions taken against unacceptable pesticide claims under FWRAsection 12(a)(l)(B) accounted for less than 2 percent of the total. In addition, OCMdoes not have an active program to screen pesticide literature nor an enforcement strategy to make better use of its limited resources and .ensure proper attention to unacceptable claims. According to the Compliance Division Director, OCM'Sdecisions to take enforcement action against unacceptable pesticide claims are being made on a case- by-case basis as situations are brought to its attention. has authority under its own legislation to take several types of ILTQC’s Enforcement FIX actions against persons who make deceptive pesticide safety claims. It Adtivities can, among other things, (1) issue cease and desist orders; (2) seek civil penalties in the federal courts of up to $10,000 for each violation of a cease and desist order; and (3) seek, in the federal courts, temporary restraining orders, injunctions, or redress for consumers. FTC rarely initiates action against pesticide advertising claims, In 1986, its Program Advisor for General Advertising (which includes pesticide advertising) could recall only about three pesticide actions within 10 years or so. Since 1986, FTChas initiated 11 pesticide-related investiga- tions, most of which involved efficacy (effectiveness) claims. None, however, involved a lawn pesticide safety claim. According to FTC’S Associate Director, Division of Advertising Practices, while FE is still concerned about deceptive pesticide safety claims, it prefers to defer to EPAin this area because of EPA'Sspecific statutory Page 13 GAO/RCED-go-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Chime ,- - Chapter 2 Enforcement Actions Not Being Taken on Pesticide Safety Advertising Claima authority and technical expertise. EPAhas no authority over applicator claims under FIFRA,and although FTCbelieves that FIFRAdoes not limit FTC’Sauthority over applicator claims, it has not yet taken any action against an applicator. Soon after we issued our April 1986 report, EPA'S Compliance Division Director informed FTCthat applicator claims were routinely referred to appropriate EPAregional offices for action. Such action usually took the form of an advertising letter. FTCwas told by EPA that in almost all cases applicators voluntarily altered or agreed to dis- continue making the challenged claims. OCMofficials could not tell us whether pesticide claims referred to EPAregional offices since 1986 involved any applicator claims. We recommended in 1986 that the Administrator seek an arrangement between EPAand ~1%for controlling unacceptable safety claims by pro- fessional pesticide applicators. FTCofficials subsequently met with EPA officials to discuss pesticide advertising issues generally and whether EPAwas aware of specific applicator claims that should be investigated. However, no formal arrangement has been made to ensure that ques- tionable applicator claims will be given appropriate attention. In Febru- ary 1990, EPAand JYX again met to discuss procedures and plans for referral of pesticide advertising cases between the two agencies. Besides taking action under FIFRA,EPAcan refer improper advertising claims to FTC.EPA'SOffice of Compliance Monitoring could not tell us how many cases EPAhad referred to FE for enforcement action since 1986, explaining that the Compliance Division did not keep records of referrals. FTC'SAssociate Director for Advertising Practices could recall only one case- which involved an efficacy claim-and while he believes there may have been referrals at the regional office level, he had no available data on these cases. To determine what safety information professional pesticide applicators Misleading Safety provide to potential customers, we telephoned 21 lawn care companies Claims Made by the in the Washington, DC., metropolitan area (including Maryland and Vir- Lawn Pesticides ginia), requesting information and literature about the safety of their products. Additional calls were made to determine the types of pesti- Industry cides these companies commonly use. We identified ourselves as private citizens, rather than as GAOrepresentatives, to ensure that we obtained .I the same information normally provided to individuals who express concern about pesticide safety. Page 14 GAO/RCED-SO-124 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Cla.ims . Chapter 2 Jhforcement A&one Not Being Taken on Pesticide Safety AdvertWing Clews Of the 21 companies we contacted, representatives of 17 said they would send information about the safety of their pesticide products. We received literature from only 10 of these companies, however, and only 2 of these made statements about the safety or nontoxicity of the prod- ucts they use. The lawn care company representatives we talked to provided a variety of responses when asked about the effects of their products on human, animal, and environmental health. Several representatives said they were aware of the concerns surrounding pesticide use and described the measures they take as a result. One company representative, for exam- ple, said his company did not use the pesticide diazinon because it was too toxic. Another said his company used pesticides only when necessary. Many of the representatives we talked to, however, made statements that their products are safe or nontoxic. These statements included the following: “Our products are practically nontoxic; no one gets sick.” “All [of] our products are legal and registered at EPAas practically nontoxic.” “The only way to be affected by [the pesticide] 2,4-D would be to lay [sic] in it for a few days.” “The safety issue has been blown out of proportion. Such a small amount of chemicals are put down directly on plants . . . . [They do] not affect animals or people.” “All chemicals [used] are nontoxic.” “Dogs may get a rash or irritated [from diazinon], but they will only feel a little itchy. This is the same reaction the applicator gets when the pes- ticide touches their [sic] skin.” To determine whether prohibited safety claims were still being made by lawn pesticide manufacturers and distributors, we reviewed a total of 18 different magazines-generally two or three issues of each-looking for pesticide advertisements discussing product safety. Although many of the magazines we examined did not contain pesticide advertisements, we found, in five of them seven instances of pesticide safety claims. One magazine had advertisements discussing pesticide safety in each of the three issues we reviewed. Generally, we found that the safety advertising information provided by lawn pesticide manufacturers and distributors focused on assurances Page 15 GAO/RCED-ftO-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims . chapter 2 Enforcement Actions Not Being Taken on Pesticide Safety Advertising Claims that pesticide products are safe or nontoxic. Table 2.1 presents exam- ples of the health and safety information we found. The table also includes safety statements found in two lawn care company brochures. Tab1 2.1: Examples of Health and Safety Infor ation Provided by Lawn Care Pesticide/active Manufacturer/distributor/ Pesti Lde Manufacturers, Distributors, ingredienis Source of information applicator cl&ms ’ and rofessional Applicators II is safe to use. It won’t lprodione(F) (Rovral) The Grower 1 harm flowers, foliage, or fruit. There’s no danger to honeybees or other beneficial insects. And [this product1 is safe to applicators. .” - Arsenal(H) Forest Farmer II is environmentally sound v&en used accordina to label directions.” - LARVO-FIT(I) Farm Chemicals “Non-Toxic: completely safe for humans, the environment, and beneficial insects.” ChemLawn Services II applications are Dicamba(H) Diazinon(l) Corporation customer selectively toxic to weeds Chlorpyrifos(l) (Dursban) brochureb and insects; a child would Carbaryl(l) (Liquid Sevin) have to swallow the amount Isofenphos(l) (Oftanol) of pesticide found in almost Pendimethalin(H) 10 cups of treated lawn clippings to equal the toxicity of one babv aspirin.” II Safer Insecticide Concentrate The Grower is easy for workers to mix, handle, and apply without undue concern about exposure.” Methoxychlor (Marlate) Farm Chemicals Handbook “The least toxic to humans and animals of all the maior pesticides. .” ~- ’ Benfluralin(H) (TEAM) Lawn Doctor Inc. customer “End use lawn care matenal Chlorpyrifos(l) (Dursban) brochureb is classified as practically Isofenphos(l) (Oftanol) non-toxic to humans, pets, (Trimec)(H) and the environment.” The letters following each active ingredient stand for the followlng: (F) - fungrcrde, (H) - herbrcrde, and (I) -insecticide. %formation following active ingredient in parentheses is the pesticide trade name “Active ingredients were obtained from lawn care companies over the telephone. OPPRegistration Division officials, using standards for pesticide labels, Problems With consider that the advertising claims shown in table 2.1 are false and Advertising Claims misleading when made by manufacturers and distributors. Such claims are prohibited by FIFRAbecause they differ substantially from claims allowed to be made as part of the approved registration. Although EPA Page 16 GAO/RCED40-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claima Chapter 2 Enforcement Actions Not Being Taken on Peeticide Safety Adverthdng Claims has not established formal criteria for determining precisely under what circumstances pesticide advertising claims are unacceptable under FIFRA section 12(a)(l)(B), OPP’SRegistration Division policy is that any claim that is unacceptable for a pesticide label is also unacceptable in adver- tising. FIFRAprohibits pesticide labels from bearing any statement, design, or graphic representation that is false or misleading EPA’Simple- menting regulations prohibit the following kinds of health and safety claims on pesticide labels on the basis that they are false and misleading: l any statement directly or indirectly implying that the pesticide is recom- mended or endorsed by any federal agency; . a true statement used in such a way as to give a false or misleading impression to the purchaser; . claims as to the safety of the pesticide or its ingredients, including state- ments such as “safe,” “nonpoisonous,” “harmless” or “nontoxic to humans and pets,” with or without a qualifying phrase such as “when used as directed;” and l non-numerical or comparative statements on the safety of the product, including but not limited “contains ail natural ingredients,” “among to: the least toxic chemicals known,” and “pollution approved.” EPAalso considers the following phrases to be false and misleading under its existing criteria: . “approved by” any agency of the federal government and . “low in toxicity, ” “will not harm beneficial insects,” “no health hazard,” and “ecologically compatible.” EPA’Slabeling prohibitions are based on its repeatedly stated position that no pesticide is “safe” because pesticides are, by their very nature, designed to be biologically active and kill various kinds of organisms. Further, an OPPRegistration Division official said that labeling state- ments that convey the impression of safety could lead users to believe that directions and caution statements are not important. Since our 1986 report, EPAhas taken several initiatives intended to clar- EPA Initiatives ify its enforcement authority under FIFRAfor pesticide advertising. In Y 1986 EPAaddressed the issue of advertising claims for disinfectant pesti- cides, and in 1989 it addressed the issue of advertising unregistered uses of a pesticide. In 1987 EPAinitiated action to develop a regulation for facilitating enforcement of FIFRAsection 12(a)(l)(B). Expected to be Page 17 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claima Chapter 2 Enforcement Actions Not Being Taken on Pesticide Safety Advertising Claims finalized sometime in July/August 1990, this regulation intends to (1) state EPA’Sestablished authority to take enforcement action against unacceptable advertising claims for registered pesticide products and (2) establish standards with respect to which types of claims are unacceptable. In addition, EPAbelieves that given its limited enforcement resources, educating homeowners regarding the risks of pesticide use and provid- ing them alternative approaches to lawn care may be more effective than monitoring and enforcing pesticide safety claims. Among other efforts in this regard, EPAis developing an integrated pest management approach to lawn care and has a question-and-answer publication pre- pared in response to public concerns. EPAhas taken 17 pesticide-related actions since 1986, only 1 of which Cdnclusions involved a lawn pesticide safety claim. We reported in 1986 that EPA took 18 pesticide-related actions between January 1, 1984, and July 30, 1986-a period of 19 months. Thus, current enforcement activities indi- cate that reviewing and enforcing pesticide advertising receives less EPA attention now than before. As we concluded in our 1986 report, EPAneeds to make a stronger effort to prevent pesticide manufacturers and distributors from disseminating misleading safety information. In this regard, EPAhas initiated a project to, among other things, establish standards for identifying unacceptable pesticide safety claims. Although this is a step in the right direction, we believe EPAneeds to develop an enforcement strategy for monitoring industry compliance with section 12(a)(l)(B) that would help target its limited resources to the greatest potential problem areas and establish time frames to measure progress, Now, EPAenforces compliance on a case-by-case basis as a situation is brought to its attention. In the interim, manufacturers and distributors continue to make safety claims in their advertising that could discourage users from following label directions and precautionary statements. EPA,using its standards for pesticide labels, considers that such claims are false and misleading. Such claims are prohibited by FIFRAbecause they differ substantially from claims allowed to be made as part of the approved registration. Professional pesticide applicators are also making claims that could lead consumers to believe that the pesticides applied around their homes are safe or nontoxic. Furthermore, such claims may persuade consumers to purchase a service they otherwise might not use or discourage the use of Page 18 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited safety Claims chapter 2 Enforcement Actions Not Being Taken on Pesticide Safety Advertising Claims reasonable precautions to minimize exposure, such as avoiding recently treated areas. EPAdoes not have authority over claims by professional pesticide appli- cators. On the other hand, FTC,which has legislative authority, believes that EPAhas been successfully handling such claims through informal actions taken by appropriate EPAregional offices. Because neither agency is acting against safety claims by pesticide applicators and because FTCprefers to defer to EPAfor action in this area, we believe that EPAneeds to seek authority under FIFRAfor regulating such claims. and since FTC,which has this authority, prefers to defer to EPAbecause of its technical expertise, we recommend that the Administrator, EPA, EPA seek, in cooperation with appropriate congressional committees, legisla- tive authority over safety claims by professional pesticide applicators. In order to protect the public from prohibited pesticide safety claims, we recommend that the Administrator, EPA,develop an enforcement strat- egy for monitoring lawn pesticide industry compliance with FIFRAsec- tion 12(a)(l)(B) that will make better use of EPAresources. Page 19 GAO/RCJZD-99-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Chabter 3 H+kh Risks of Lawn Care PesticidesHave Not E%enFblly Reassessed Despite progress, EPAis still at a preliminary stage in reassessing all of the risks of pesticides, including lawn care pesticides. Of the 34 most widely used lawn care pesticides, 32 are older pesticides and subject to reregistration; however, not one of these has been completely reas- sessed. Until EPAcompletes its reassessments as part of the reregistra- tion process, the public may be at risk from exposure to potentially hazardous lawn care pesticides. Rdregistration Status Our 1986 report contained a list of 50 pesticides widely used in nonagri- cultural products. We concluded that the health risks associated with ofi Major Lawn Care their use were uncertain and that until EPAcompleted its reassessments P sticides as part of the reregistration process, the public would continue to be ” exposed to these pesticides. As part of our follow-up work, we planned to update the reregistration status of the 50 pesticides to determine what progress EPAhad made in assessing their health risks. We found, however, after reviewing them with EPAofficials, that many did not have major lawn care uses. Thus, for our follow-up work, we used a list of 34 pesticides that EPAidentified as currently representing those most widely used for lawn care pur- poses. Most of these major lawn pesticides are also used on food or feed crops; therefore, FIFRArequires that EPAgive priority to reregistering these pesticides. Table 3.1 shows the reregistration status of each of the 34 major lawn pesticides. Two are not subject to reregistration because they are newer pesticides subject to current registration standards. Of the remaining 32 pesticides, none has been completely reassessed: 23 have been issued an interim registration standard, while 9 have yet to be evaluated in terms of their data needs and conditions of reregistration. (A registration standard describes all the data available on a particular pesticide, iden- tifies data that are missing or inadequate, addresses regulatory and sci- entific issues for which sufficient data exist, and sets forth the conditions that pesticide products affected by the standard must meet to obtain or keep their registrations.) Page 20 GAO/RCED-90434 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Chapter 3 Health Realm of Lawn Care Peaticidee Have Not Been Fully Reassessed Table $1: EPA’s LLst of 34 Major Lawn Care P/esticIdes and Their Reregistration Interim Stati Registration Standard as of p;mber 24, Pesticide Type 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) Herbicide YES Acephate Insecticide YES - Atrazine Herbicide YES Balan Herbicide NO Bayleton Fungicide NO -Bendiocarb Insecticide YES Benomyl Fungicide YES Betasan Herbicide NO Carbaryl Insecticide YES Chlorothalonil Fungicide YES Chlorpyrifos Insecticide YES DDVP (dichlorvos) Insecticide YES DSMA (disodium methanearsonate) Herbicide NO Dacthal Herbicide YES Diazinon Insecticide YES Dicamba Herbicide YES Diphenamid Funoicide YES Endothall ---- Herbicide NO Glyphosate Herbicide YES lsoxaben Herbicide a MCPA (2-methyL4chlorophenoxyacetic acid) Herbicide YES MCPP (potassium salt) Herbicide YES MSMA (monosodium methanearsonate) Herbicide NO Malathion Insecticide YES Maneb Funaicide YES Methoxychlor Insecticide YES Oftanol Insecticide NO PCNB (pentachloronitrobenzene) Fungicide YES Eonamide Herbicide YES Siduron Herbicide NO Sulfur Fungicide YES Trichlorfon Insecticide YES Triumph Insecticide a Ziram Fungicide NO aPesticide was registered after November 1, 1984; therefore, reregistration is not required. Source: GAO analysis of EPA data. Page 21 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims . Chapter 3 Health Risks of Lawn Care Pesticides Have Not Been Fully Reassessed , Table 3.2 shows 6 of the 32 pesticides that have also undergone Special Health and Review because of concerns about their chronic health and environmen- Environmental tal effects, which surfaced after their registration. These concerns range Co terns Associated from cancer to wildlife hazards. Two of the pesticides, diazinon and 2,4- D, have been determined to be the most widely used pesticides for resi- W’th Lawn Care dential lawn care. In fact, of the 13 responses received from the lawn Pei ticides care companies we contacted, 7 indicated that diazinon is used and 6 indicated that 2,4-D is used. Tab1 3.2: Status of Lawn Care Pestt tides in the Special Review Chronic health and Prock a8 of December 1989 Pesticide environmental concerns Special Review status 2,4-D Carcinogenicity Preliminary notificationa DDVP (dichlorvos) Oncogenicity Special Review in processb Maneb (EBDC) Oncogenicity Special Review in processC Teratogenicity Benomyl Mutagenicity Special Review completedd Teratogenicity Reproductive effects Wildlife hazard Pronamide Oncogenicity Special Review complete@ Diazinon Avian Hazard Special Review completed’ ‘EPA’s concerns have not been fully resolved. A decision whether to place 2,4-D in Special Review because of possible cancer risks will not be made until late summer 1990 upon completion and review of two epidemiological studies. “EPA will reassess carcinogenic potential when additional oncogenicity data are received. ‘EPA announced a preliminary determination to cancel most of the food crop uses of maneb. dEPArequires use of cloth or commercially available disposable dust masks by mixers/loaders of beno- myl intended for aerial application and requires field monitoring studies to identtfy residues that may enter aquatic sites after use on rice. eEPAcancelled some product registrations, modified labeling, and revised the residue tolerance for appltcation on lettuce. ‘EPA cancelled sod farm and golf course uses. An appeals court suspended EPA’s decision. EPA is reviewing its cancellation decision and the court’s reasoning for its suspension of EPA’s decrston. Source: GAO analysis of EPA data. EPAsubjected the insecticide diazinon to Special Review when it found that diazinon was killing waterfowl and other bird species. As a result, EPAcancelled uses of diazinon on golf courses and sod farms, although bird poisonings on residential lawns and in corn and alfalfa fields have also been reported. Due to the number of homeowner poisoning incidents, EPA’Sregistration standard imposed labeling requirements in order to provide additional use and safety information to the homeowner. EPAhas also restricted Page 22 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Cam Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims . Chapter3 Health Risks of Lawn Care Pesticides Have Not Been Fully Reassessed diazinon’s commercial outdoor uses (e.g., uses on agricultural crops, ornamentals, and turf) to certified applicators or persons under their direct supervision, because of diazinon’s avian and aquatic toxicity. However, this restriction does not apply to commercial lawn care com- panies and homeowners. Although EPAhas called for additional data with regard to diazinon’s effects on human health, until these data have been received, diazinon’s use on lawns raises uncertainties about its risks to humans. Diazinon is used to control a variety of insects found around farms and nurseries, around commercial establishments such as restaurants, and around homes and gardens. Diazinon, in fact, is the most widely used pesticide on residential lawns. According to 1989 EPAestimates, about 6 million pounds of diazinon are used annually on home lawns and commercial turf and, prior to cancellation, over a half-million pounds had been used on golf courses and sod farms. Regarding 2,4-D, EPAissued a preliminary notification of Special Review in September 1986 based on evidence of increased cancer risk among farmers handling similar types of herbicides. Based on further review, EPAconcluded that available human evidence and other data were inade- quate to assess the potential cancer risk of 2,4-D and proposed not to initiate a Special Review of the chemical. EPA'Sconcerns regarding the effects of 2,4-D have not been fully resolved, however, and the decision whether to place 2,4-D in Special Review because of possible cancer risk will not be made until late summer 1990 upon completion and review of two epidemiological studies. Further, as part of 2,4-D’s registration standard, EPAhas called for additional laboratory testing for birth defects and other potential long-term effects. These tests may require as many as 50 months to complete. An ingredient in more than 1,500 pesticide products, 2,4-D is a weed killer that has been used extensively by farmers and home gardeners for over 40 years. About 60 million pounds of 2,4-D are used annually in the United States, primarily by wheat and corn farmers. Almost 4 million pounds are used annually on residential lawns. Because of increased public concern about the safety and misuse of lawn EPA Initiatives* care pesticides, EPAre-examined its data requirements for these types of pesticides through a work group formed in November 1987. Although the work group proposed additional data requirements for determining health hazards likely to arise from repeated exposure to treated lawns, Page 23 GAO/RCED-fW-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims Chapter 3 Health Bieka oP Lawn Care Pesticides Have Not Reen Fully Reassessed no decision had been made to require these data for all lawn care pesti- tides as of March 1990. I has not completely reassessed the health risks of any of the major Qmclusions EPA lawn care pesticides subject to reregistration. While EPA has made some , progress in identifying the data needs and conditions of reregistration for 23 of these pesticides, uncertainties about health risks still exist. For the two most frequently used lawn pesticides-diazinon and &~-D--EPA identified certain health risks associated with their use based on avail- able data. However, EPA has called for additional data that may require as many as 50 months to obtain in order to complete these risk assess- ments. Thus, uncertainties about the risks of these, not to mention the other 30, major lawn care pesticides will remain until EPA receives all required data and completes all product reregistration actions. As we testified last May, the expeditious reregistration of pesticides is paramount to reducing the uncertainty surrounding their risks. We stated, however, that while EPA had made some progress in this regard, it still had much work to do. Based on our testimony and follow-up work, we continue to believe that while FIFRA ‘88 can help accelerate the reregistration process, reregistering pesticide products and reassessing their risks remain formidable tasks. In the interim, the general public’s health may be at risk from exposure to these chemicals until EPA'S reas- sessments are performed and regulatory action has been taken. Page 24 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims c Page 26 GAO/RCED-90-134 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims i Appendix I M&or Contributors to This Report I Peter F. Guerrero, Associate Director, (202) 262-0600 J. Kevin Donohue, Assistant Director Margaret J. Reese, Assignment Manager Carol A. Ruchala, Evaluator-In-Charge Deborah L. Eichhorn, Evaluator elopment Division, (180021) Page 26 GAO/~90=124 Lawn Care Pesticide Risks and Prohibited Safety Claims - A - w = -1 -F 0 f -%
Lawn Care Pesticides: Risks Remain Uncertain While Prohibited Safety Claims Continue
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-23.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)