EPA reduces exclusion zone around pesticide applicators

Agricultural employers are required to keep workers and other people outside of the so-called application exclusion zone.

One year after it proposed it, the EPA finalized a regulation on Thursday that reduces the size of the buffer zones intended to protect people from pesticides being applied on the farm. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, who announced the completion of the rulemaking process at a North Carolina farm, said the new regulation would be simpler and easier to follow than its predecessor.

Agricultural employers are required to keep workers and other people outside of the so-called application exclusion zone. Under the new regulation, the zone will extend 25 feet from sprayer rigs with nozzles more than 12 inches above the ground and 100 feet from aerial, air-blast, air-propelled, fumigant, smoke, mist, and fog applications of pesticides.

In a significant change, the exclusion zone now ends at a farm’s property line. The EPA said an existing “do not contact” provision would protect neighbors or passersby because it prohibits applying pesticides in a way that would expose workers or other people to the chemicals. Previously, the exclusion zones could extend beyond farm boundaries, possibly to roadways or neighboring buildings. The EPA said the off-farm zones were difficult to enforce.

Also under the new regulation, immediate family members of farm owners are exempt from the exclusion zone rule, so they can stay inside a building on the farm rather than leave during an application.

The new regulation is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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