New pesticide regulations will help protect Virginians
Bill Couzens

Virginia’s Pesticide Control Board was founded several years ago, when there was a death associated with a pesticide poisoning.

The Virginia Pesticide Control Board’s latest proposed regulation “raises the bar a notch” towards protecting human health, because as the document states, it will ensure that those individuals applying pesticides are properly trained to reduce the chances of harming themselves, others and/or the environment.

The Virginia Pesticide Control Board proposes to amend the existing Regulations Governing Pesticide Applicator Certification under Authority of Virginia Pesticide Control Act.

The proposed amendments will add new definitions to clarify who must be certified and keep pesticide application records.

For instance, not-for-hire commercial pesticide applicators (an applicator who uses or supervises pesticides as part of his or her job) must record uses of all pesticides. Currently, records are only required for restricted pesticides.

This will also add new definitions to clarify their required supervision standard. The additional record keeping requirement will assist in investigating reports of misuse. This, is turn, makes it easier to determine if pesticides were applied in accordance with regulations.

One of the most forward-thinking elements of the proposed regulation is that testing can no longer be proctored by businesses and/or agencies themselves for licensing, but rather through the state exclusively.

This will clearly eliminate the opportunity for fraud by companies proctoring the pesticide tests.

As a piece with raising the bar on human health, the new regulation will require on-the-job training in each of the categories or subcategories that applicators choose to work.

There is an opportunity here where training could be expanded by requiring applicators be knowledgeable in non-chemical pest-control methods as a preventative step towards reducing the unnecessary and preventable exposures to the environment and human health.

Among the 16 language changes suggested are changes to clarify what data needs to be reported in the case of pesticide accidents and incidents.

With all this good news for Virginians, there is still an ever-widening gap when it comes to Virginia’s schoolchildren and pesticide exposures.

There is little to nothing in current or proposed regulations that specifically protects Virginia’s children.

While Virginia has been good in protecting work spaces for voters, lawmakers have missed the boat in protecting Virginia’s children in their work and play spaces.

Virginia still allows pesticide applications next to schools and other health-affected communities with little in place to shield those communities. While the state now recommends that pesticide application sites not locate to schools, there is nothing in place to enforce the recommendation.

Ironically, Virginia’s health department will not issue a permit to site a school next to a pesticide application site. However, the pesticide application site can come to the school.

When there is a vulnerable community at risk, such as school children, lawmakers need to act to reduce unnecessary and preventable exposures to the known dangers associated with pesticides.

Sound science has linked pesticide exposures to a wide variety of illnesses, including cancer, impaired development, birth defects, sterility and nervous systems disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year in this country, an estimated 14 million school days were missed to asthma. Pesticides have long been associated with asthma.

At the very least, with the new regulations slated to be approved in about six months, the state needs to add language that specifically addresses health-effected communities such as daycare centers and schools.

While seemingly commonsense to not spray in the presence of children, in Virginia there are no laws in place to protect children under these circumstances.

Though the state recognizes that no pesticide application site be located next to schools, it sadly continues to occur in Virginia.

Currently pesticide application sites next to schools do not require a certified pesticide applicator.

For this reason, it is important that if the state allows pesticide application sites to locate next to schools, that they require a certified applicator.

While the state requires a certified applicator for schools – it is an incomplete thought that they would not require the same for those sites adjacent to schools that likely will be using even larger and more toxic quantities.

These latest regulation changes should also include the requirement of posting a 24-hour notice for those pesticide application sites both on and adjacent to health-affected communities to include schools and daycare centers.

Big picture-wise, hats off to the Virginia’s Pesticide Control Board for taking steps to raise the bar for human health. However, the board must be swifter in engaging practices that protect children from harmful exposures.

These steps are important firsts, but they are incomplete until Virginia’s school children become a priority in preventing illness caused by environmental exposures.

©Times Community Newspapers 2007