EPA Makes Changes to Pesticide Product First Aid Statements

Date: Aug 09, 2000

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued Pesticide Registration (PR) Notice 2000-3, forcing substantive reorganization of the format and content of first aid statements on pesticide labels upon new and existing registrants. The changes apply to all new and existing pesticide product labels. The EPA will begin using the revised statements immediately in reviewing all new applications for registration and products submitted for re-registration. EPA expects registrants to incorporate the label changes on existing pesticide products by October 1, 2001.

EPA issued the PR notice with the hope of making first aid labels easier for consumers to understand. Based on interviews of household pesticide users, for example, EPA recommends that registrants use the phrase "first aid" instead of "statement of practical treatment," as the former is easier for consumers to identify. The PR notice is also an attempt to reflect changes in medical procedures and treatment. In this regard, EPA has:

  • revised the general first aid statements for inhalation, oral, and dermal routes of exposure. The new first aid statements should be used unless they are medically incorrect for the product.

  • determined that inducing vomiting as a standard of first aid instruction is no longer universally recommended and may be harmful in connection with zinc phosphide, corrosive pesticide products (pH <2 or >11.5), and products containing greater than or equal to 10 percent petroleum distillates. Recommended first aid instruction for zinc phosphide remains the same (instructing consumers not to drink water after consuming pesticide products that contain zinc phosphide). The recommended petroleum distillates instruction has been revised to instruct users not to give any liquid to a person who has consumed a product containing petroleum distillates.

  • instructed that guidance for contact lens wearers should now include the words "hold eye open" during rinsing, to reduce perceived consumer confusion on this point.

To further improve label comprehension, registrants must organize first aid statements for pesticide products in Toxicity Categorizes I, II, and III in "box and bullet" format. In the "box and bullet" format, first aid statements associated with the exposure route of greatest concern for the labeled product are listed first with the corresponding, recommended treatment in an adjacent text column. EPA also strongly encourages the addition of poison control references and toll-free hotlines on the label for the benefit of pesticide product users.

The PR Notice reflects EPAs enforcement of its guidelines to favor uniformity over relevancy. The Agency has not, in recent years, been receptive to requests by registrants to deviate from its preferred first aid instructions. Registrants have struggled with EPA for years over placing an "induced vomiting" instruction on their label in certain instances where it has not been warranted and raised liability concerns. Left unchecked, the struggle with EPA over practical adjustments in first aid labeling is likely to continue with the publication of the new PR Notice.

PR 2000-3 is one of several recent pronouncements that impose significant new labeling requirements while skirting formal notice and comment rulemaking procedures. In addition to the first aid revisions, EPA has issued new guidance documents addressing the distinction between mandatory and advisory labeling, insect repellent labeling, indoor residential product labeling, and pest resistance management labeling. These informal and disjointed agency pronouncements are creating confusion among companies about what, if any, labeling requirements they are required to meet.

Indeed, a June 5 letter to EPA calls for the new recommendations to be rescinded and reproposed through a more formal rulemaking process. The letter was sent by the American Crop Protection Association, Chemical Manufacturers Association, Chemical Producers and Distributors Association, Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, International Sanitary Supply Association, and RISE (Responsible Industry For A Sound Environment). Additional parties are free to weigh in to support these groups.