Section 18 of the federal pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), authorizes EPA to allow States to use a pesticide for an unregistered use for a limited time if EPA determines that emergency conditions exist.
Federal regulations defines an emergency condition as an urgent, non-routine situation that requires the use of a pesticide(s). Any emergency condition exists only when the situation is urgent and non-routine and all three conditions are met:
Most requests for emergency exemptions are made by state lead agricultural agencies, although United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and United States Department of Interior (USDI) also request exemptions. The process generally takes place as follows. Growers in particular regions identify a problem situation which registered pesticides will not alleviate. The growers contact their state lead agency (usually the state department of agriculture) and request that the agency apply to EPA for a Section 18 emergency exemption for a particular use. Requests are most often made for pesticides that have other food uses registered. The state agency evaluates the requests and submits requests to EPA for emergency exemptions they believe are warranted. The uses are requested for a limited period of time (no longer than 1 year), to address the emergency situation only. To be as responsive as possible to the states and growers, EPA attempts to make decisions on the requests within 50 days of receipt.
During this 50-day time period, EPA must perform a multi-disciplinary risk assessment of the requested use, relying largely on data that have already been reviewed for the pesticide. A dietary risk assessment, an occupational risk assessment, an ecological and environmental risk assessment, and an assessment of the emergency are conducted prior to making a decision. For the past several years, EPA has also evaluated the risk to the most sensitive sub-population (often infants and children) in its dietary risk assessments. The Agency's evaluation also includes an assessment of the progress toward registration for the use in question.
If the emergency appears valid and the risks are acceptable, EPA approves the emergency exemption request. EPA will deny an exemption request if the pesticide use may cause unreasonable adverse effects to health or the environment, or if emergency criteria are not met. As a matter of course, a state may withdraw an exemption request at any point in the process.
Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), enacted on August 3, 1996, EPA must establish formal tolerances (maximum allowable residue levels) to cover all pesticide residues in food, even residues resulting from emergency uses. Tolerances established for emergency exemption uses are time-limited to correspond to the use season. In establishing a tolerance, EPA must make the finding that there is "reasonable certainty that no harm" will result to human health from aggregate and cumulative exposure to the pesticide, as required by the new FQPA health-based standard. Establishment of these tolerances, with their expiration dates, are published in the Federal Register.
Pesticide & Fertilizer Management Division