[Pest Perspectives] The Ongoing Impact of EPA’s 25b Exempt Rule

Columns - Pest Perspectives

April 30, 2013
Kim Kelley-Tunis

Before a new product can be utilized within the pest management industry, it must first pass through a stringent EPA registration process. Data is gathered through a variety of methods, detailing the product’s effectiveness on its target pests and the safety of the materials and ingredients, both active and inactive, contained within the finished product.

Often lengthy in time and financially costly in nature, this process limited the introduction of new products into the pest management industry, especially those that were to be considered of minimal risk. In 1996, EPA addressed these issues by amending the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to exempt certain products from the full registration requirements as long as they met a list of specific criteria. Hailed as a victory for the pest management industry, this ground-breaking change has led to a number of issues that many failed to predict.

Meeting Niche Market Needs.
During the height of the “green” and “organic” movements, the need for products considered of minimal risk to users and the environment was in great demand but in short supply. The introduction of the 25b amendment allowed products to be produced and sold within the industry as long as they met specific criteria. First and foremost, the active ingredient must be on EPA’s list of Exempted Active Ingredients while the inactive ingredients must be classified as “Inert Ingredients of Minimal Concern.” These changes helped to increase both the variability and availability of products for this niche market. Since the passing of the 25b amendment, the number of products produced has more than tripled in number and moved beyond the restrictions of the “green” or “organic” markets, creating a Pandora’s Box.

Regulatory Concerns. Initially viewed as a success by EPA, the 25b exemption reduced the cost and regulatory burdens on manufacturers producing products utilizing ingredients already classified as minimal risk, and also allowed EPA to focus its limited resources on products that could pose a greater risk to humans and the environment. However, the 25b exemption did not extend beyond the federal level. Thus, the burden of registering these products at the local level fell to the state regulatory agencies.

Many state regulatory agencies didn’t have the resources to keep up with the monitoring and oversight of the increasing number of products being introduced into the pest management market. While many manufacturers of 25b exempt products work with state regulatory agencies to ensure that their products are registered within the states, many are able to bypass the state registration process by selling directly to the consumer through a number of methods, such as the Internet. In many cases, the state only becomes aware of the availability of these products following a problem arising from their use. This new regulatory environment has created what some have referred to as the “wild west” of product introductions.

Truth in Advertising. An increasing number of manufacturers are marketing to consumers looking for minimal risk products labeled for the control of a variety of pests. Although manufactured with ingredients specified for 25b exemption, these products also must have product labels that meet, what EPA considers, restrictive language.

Specifically, these labels cannot contain language that implies that the product is federally registered. This means their label cannot contain the statement, “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with the label” or list an EPA establishment or registration number. Further, claims regarding the protection of human and public health are also prohibited, including statements linking a target pest with any public health concern. However, in response to increasing competition within the pest management industry and the growing bed bug market, more products are being introduced with labels that fall outside of the 25b exempt restrictions.

Since this is difficult to manage at the state level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun to take a much closer look at these products. The FTC has begun focusing specifically on the manner in which these products are marketed and sold to the unsuspecting consumer.

Moving Forward. As the number of 25b exempt products continues to grow, it is evident that the pest management industry must work to help further monitor and regulate this growing market. The precedent has been set. In recent years, EPA has begun reviewing and evaluating some of our more commonly used products within the industry, including changes to both rodenticide and pyrethroid label language. Introduced with good intentions, over time, EPA’s 25b exemption has brought to light a number of issues regarding the development, marketing and use of minimal risk products within the pest management industry. It may be time for EPA to re-evaluate these products and create a registration process that is well suited to the demands of today. ?

The author is Rollins’ technical services director. She can be reached at kkelley@giemedia.com.