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Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.


Road Rail Air Water

This section covers environmental regulatory aspects of storing and using pesticides. A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, or mitigating any pest. Pesticides are typically used in several areas at transportation facilities, including waste disposal areas, storage areas, public areas such as terminals and offices, in addition to their use outside for lawns, plantings, and other landscaping applications.

Who is covered by the regulations?

Businesses that use and/or dispose of pesticides are impacted by federal regulations.

What is the purpose of the regulations?

Chemical pesticides have been used in the United States for over 60 years. When effectively applied, pesticides can kill and control pests including insects, fungi, bacteria and rodents.

On the negative side, pesticides have harmful side effects. Many pesticides are known or suspected to be toxic to humans. They can cause neurologic damage, delayed development, cancer, reproductive dysfunction, and possibly impairment of the immune and endocrine systems. Concern about these effects was first expressed in the early 1960's and now has become widespread as knowledge has grown of the toxicity of pesticides. As a result, U.S. EPA regulates the use of pesticides under the authority given to them by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The disposal of unused pesticides is covered under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).


Pesticide Use

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides EPA with the authority to oversee the registration, distribution, sale and use of pesticides. FIFRA applies to all types of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and antimicrobials. FIFRA was first passed in 1947 and amended numerous times, most recently by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996.

Requirements for Pesticide Users. As a part of the pesticide registration, EPA classifies the product as unclassified, general use, or restricted use (40 CFR Section 152.160(a)). The EPA may prescribe additional restrictions relating to the product's composition, labeling, or packaging. For pesticides that may cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, including injury to the applicator, EPA may require that the pesticide be applied either by, or under the direct supervision of, a certified applicator.

FIFRA requires users of products to follow the labeling directions on each product explicitly. The following statement appears on all EPA-registered product labels under the Directions for Use heading: "It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.  In other words, over and above the requirements of common sense, your staff is required by law to follow the safety precautions and use directions on the labeling of each registered product.  Note in particular

  • Specified dilution
  • Contact time
  • Method of application

Not following these or any other condition of use covered by the label would be considered misuse of the product.

FIFRA common areas for inspections. While an EPA inspector is authorized to examine a wide range of documents and operations, he or she will probably be particularly interested in the following features:

  • Personnel protection equipment
  • Pesticide application equipment
  • Pesticide storage areas, including storage containers
  • Cleaning disinfectants and labels

Typical records an EPA Inspector may ask to review for FIFRA compliance include:

  • Records of pesticides purchased (purchase orders, inventory)
  • Pesticide application records
  • Description of the pest control program
  • Certification status of pesticide applicators
  • Pesticide disposal manifests
  • Contract files
  • Recent ventilation rating for pesticide fume hood and pesticide mixing/storage areas

Pesticide Disposal

The label of all registered pesticide products, except those intended solely for household use, must bear explicit instructions about pesticide disposal. The statements listed below contain the exact wording that must appear on the label of these products.

  1. The labels of all products, except household use, must contain the statement, "Do not contaminate water, food, or feed by storage or disposal."

  2. Except those products intended solely for household use, the labels of all products that contain active ingredients appearing on the "Acutely Hazardous" Commercial Pesticide Products List (RCRA E List) or are assigned to Toxicity Category I on the basis of oral or dermal toxicity, skin or eye irritation potential, or Toxicity Category I or II on the basis of acute inhalation toxicity must bear the following pesticide disposal statement: "Pesticide wastes are acutely hazardous. Improper disposal of excess pesticide, spray mixture, or rinsate is a violation of Federal Law. If these wastes cannot be disposed of by use according to label instructions, contact your State Pesticide or Environmental Control Agency, or the Hazardous Waste representative at the nearest EPA Regional Office for guidance."

EPA offers the following advice for pesticide disposal:

  • The best way to dispose of small amounts of excess pesticides is to use them - apply them - according to the directions on the label. If you cannot use them, ask your neighbors whether they have a similar pest control problem and can use them.
  • If all the remaining pesticide cannot be properly used, check with your local solid waste management authority, environmental agency, or health department to find out whether your community has a household hazardous waste collection program or a similar program for getting rid of unwanted, leftover pesticides. These authorities can also inform you of any local requirements for pesticide waste disposal. To identify your local solid waste agency, look in the government section of your phone book under categories such as solid waste, public works, or garbage, trash, or refuse collection or you can call 1-800-CLEANUP.
  • State and local laws regarding pesticide disposal may be stricter than the Federal requirements on the label. Be sure to check with your state or local agencies before disposing of your pesticide containers.
  • If the container is partly filled, contact your local solid waste agency.
  • If the container is empty, do not reuse it. Place it in the trash, unless the label specifies a different procedure.
  • Do not pour leftover pesticides down the sink, into the toilet, or down a sewer or street drain. Pesticides may interfere with the operation of wastewater treatment systems or pollute waterways. Many municipal systems are not equipped to remove all pesticide residues. If pesticides reach waterways, they may harm fish, plants, and other living things.

Universal Waste. Under certain circumstances, pesticides are covered under Universal Waste rules (40 CFR part 273):

  • Recalled pesticides that are:
    • Stocks of a suspended and canceled pesticide that are part of a voluntary or mandatory recall under FIFRA Section 19(b), including, but not limited to those owned by the registrant responsible for conducting the recall; or
    • Stocks of a suspended or canceled pesticide, or a pesticide that is not in compliance with FIFRA that are part of a voluntary recall by the registrant.
  • Stocks of other unused pesticide products that are collected and managed as part of a waste pesticide collection program.

The federal universal waste rule establishes two types of universal waste handlers. The small quantity handler of universal waste (SQHUW) who accumulates less than 5000 kg of universal waste on site at any one time and the large quantity handler of universal waste (LQHUW) who accumulates 5,000 kg or more of universal waste.

With regard to disposal, all universal waste handlers can send their universal waste to either another universal waste handler, a destination facility which is defined by the regulations to be one who treats, recycles or disposes of universal waste, or a foreign destination. One, of course, must comply with all applicable Department of Transportation (DOT) shipping requirements.

Please note that unlike hazardous waste, you can transport your universal waste from one handler to another so if you have several transportation facilities in an area, you can send your waste to one of the facilities who would then send it on to the destination facility. By doing this you may be able to reduce your shipment costs if there is a discount for bulk deliveries.

Please note that state definitions and regulations relating to universal wastes may differ.  Check the page for your state on the Universal Waste State Resource Locator for links to more information.

Best Practices

Pest management programs at many facilities involve applying synthetic organic pesticides on a routine schedule, rather than in response to specific problems. Such practices almost always result in excessive and unnecessary pesticide use.

This system is especially unjustifiable when it is used as a substitute for good housekeeping. Pests appear when there is material around to attract them. Good housekeeping practices can go a long way toward making pesticides unnecessary. In any event, pesticide applications, if they are to be made at all, should be targeted at a specific pest which has reached a pre-determined threshold problem level.

Transportation facilities should consider adopting integrated pest management (IPM) programs. IPM is a systematic and sensible approach to pest control. It takes advantage of all the available options--non-chemical as well as chemical. The essence of IPM is an orderly decision-making process that reviews all pesticide use and then determines how to reduce that use. Wherever possible non-chemical approaches are employed.

More Resources

Controlling Pests without Harmful Pesticides. Includes a Directory of Least Toxic Service Providers that practices Integrated Pest Management.

National Pesticides Information Center - Pest Elimination Guides and Information for a variety of pests including mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, lice, fleas, termites and guidance in selecting a pest control firm.

Restricted and Canceled Uses. EPA registers pesticides and their use on specific pests and under specific circumstances. For example, "Pesticide A," registered for use on apples, may not be used legally on grapes, or an insecticide registered for "outdoor use" may not legally be used inside a building. In some circumstances, use of a registered pesticide may be restricted to pesticide applicators with special training.