WASHINGTON | The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a major step to increase transparency by posting 10 years of pesticide incident data on its website. Sharing this information advances EPA’s commitment to environmental justice and aligns with EPA’s Equity Action Plan by expanding the availability of data and capacity so the public and community organizations can better understand pesticide exposures, including exposures to vulnerable populations.
This action also advances the President’s transparency goal of ensuring that the public, including members of communities with environmental justice concerns, has adequate access to information on federal activities related to human health or the environment, as charged in Executive Order 14096, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All.
The data sets, which pull information from EPA’s Incident Data System (IDS), allow users to access raw data on pesticide exposure incidents such as the incident date, the reason for the report (e.g., adverse effect, product defect), and the severity of the incident. It may also provide information on the location of the incident, the pesticide product, and a description of the incident(s). EPA has not verified the raw data for accuracy or completeness, so users should be aware of this limitation before drawing any conclusions from the data.
“People have the right to know when accidental pesticide exposures or other incidents are reported to the Agency,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “It is particularly critical to share how pesticides may have impacted our most vulnerable populations, including children and farmworkers.”
EPA considers a pesticide incident as any exposure or effect from a pesticide’s use that is not expected or intended. Pesticide incidents may involve people, domestic animals (e.g., pets or livestock), wildlife, or the environment (e.g., air, soil, water, plants). Reporting a pesticide incident provides EPA with additional information on the effects and consequences of exposures to pesticides affecting people and the environment.
EPA receives information about pesticide incidents from a variety of sources. The incident reports contained in IDS include data from:
pesticide manufacturers (registrants), as they are required to submit reports of unreasonable adverse effects from their products;
reporting by the public through other entities (including state regulators for pesticide enforcement);
information submitted when individuals send an email directly to EPA;
the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC); and
the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
Prior to today’s action, EPA generally only provided incident information to the public when responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or as an incident summary as part of EPA’s pesticide registration review process. EPA has made these data accessible to expand the public’s access and understanding of pesticide incidents and pesticide-related illness. Releasing these data is responsive to many long-standing requests to share incident data with farmworker organizations and public health officials.
EPA has made the last 10 years of incident data accessible because incident data older than 10 years may not reflect pesticide product labels currently on the market due to label changes that may occur during registration review. EPA plans to update the data monthly going forward.
Background on EPA’s Review and Use of Incident Data
EPA completes a periodic review of pesticide registrations — including pesticide incidents — at least every 15 years to ensure that, as the ability to assess risk evolves and as policies and practices change, all registered pesticides continue to meet the statutory standard of no unreasonable adverse effects. EPA’s analysis may result in label changes to address any identified risks of concern. As mentioned above, this process is known as registration review.
During registration review, EPA conducts human health and environmental assessments to ensure that pesticides will not cause unreasonable adverse effects to human health or the environment. Human health risk assessments evaluate the nature and probability of adverse health effects occurring in people who may be exposed to chemicals in their daily activities (e.g., from food and water they consume, air they breathe, contact at work, or other activities). Ecological risk assessments evaluate how a pesticide is expected to move through and break down in the environment, and whether potential exposure to the pesticide will result in unreasonable adverse effects to wildlife and vegetation.
In addition, incident reports, both those submitted to the Agency and those available in open literature, can help EPA determine whether pesticides have adequate use directions and restrictions, protective safety equipment requirements for farmworkers and/or pesticide applicators, and any other necessary mitigation measures to reduce risk to humans and the environment.
Background on the Incident Data System
EPA is making two data sets public. The first data set contains incidents that were submitted to EPA with a description of the incident (e.g., who was involved, how it happened, and where the incident occurred). The second data set contains incidents that were submitted in aggregate to the Agency. Aggregate incidents are submitted in bulk, as outlined in the Agency’s PR Notice 98- 3 and only contain information on the product and the severity of the incident, with no narrative description. For either data set, a single submission may contain one or more incidents.
EPA is publishing these data sets to increase transparency to the public, but the Agency does not currently have the resources to answer individual questions about its content.
It is important to recognize that the data sets contain raw data that have never been reviewed for their validity or modified to facilitate public review. The Agency did not design the incident reporting system to cover only information known to be valid, and as such, cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the data sets. People who download and use the data should exercise caution in drawing conclusions from the data.
For incident reports that contain personally identifiable information, EPA has made every effort to remove this information before making the records public. EPA will continue to redact this information as it updates the data sets each month.