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U.S. Pesticide Regulation

In the United States, regulation initially focused on protecting the consumer from pesticide residue on food, but it became apparent that protection was needed for workers applying or working near pesticides. Congress passed the first federal act specifically dealing with pesticides in 1947. This act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), allowed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate appropriate labeling of pesticides. Unfortunately, this law did not provide sufficient protection for consumers or workers. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, explored the harmful effects of pesticides, especially DDT, on people, wildlife, and the environment and marked a turning point in our understanding of the effects of chemicals on human and environmental health.

In 1972 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed and given authority to register pesticides based on evaluating and weighing estimated risks and benefits. Subsequent revisions to FIFRA greatly expanded the testing requirements companies must comply with before pesticides could be registered for use. Current requirements include acute toxicity testing of full formulations (including inert ingredients); however, chronic and sub-chronic testing is only required for the active ingredients. Results of these tests, which are conducted by manufacturers and submitted to EPA, are used to estimate potential risks to human health and the environment. There is also an international effort to harmonize regulatory standards between the United States, Europe, and Japan.

In 1996 the Food Quality Protection Act passed by Congress required that special consideration be given to children's exposures and their special sensitivity to pesticides and other chemicals. This act requires an added safety factor when calculating risk to children.

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