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Publication #PI241

How to Report Pesticide Misuse in Florida1

F. M. Fishel2

Introduction

Pesticides provide many benefits, but risks accompany their use. In any situation, using pesticides is a balancing act between the pesticide’s benefits and its potential risks. On a daily basis, pesticide applicators must balance these risks and benefits to best protect humans, animals (i.e., wildlife, pollinators, birds, and fish), and the environment (i.e., non-target plants, water, and soil resources) from harmful impacts.

The first statement on the “Directions for Use” section of every registered pesticide label clearly states “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling” (Figure 1). A clear interpretation of this statement is that a pesticide must be used, stored, and disposed strictly according to the label. These instructions will help determine a pesticide use or misuse. The label provides precautionary statements that address hazards to humans and domestic animals, and environmental and physical hazards, among other pesticide safety information. Agricultural use product labels contain specific information on how to comply with the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to protect farm workers and pesticide handlers from pesticide occupational exposure (Figure 2).

Figure 1. 

Pesticide product label “Directions for Use” statement.


Credit:

Crop Data Management Systems (CDMS)


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 2. 

Pesticide product label “Agricultural Use Requirements.”


Credit:

CDMS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Pesticide accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. People can make mistakes, and sometimes malicious intent is involved. In some situations, pesticides have drifted or runoff from their intended targets to cause harm to bystanders, communities, and the environment (see Figures 3, 4, and 5). Regardless of the reason, mistakes with pesticides seldom escape public scrutiny. Pesticide applicators carry the responsibility and liability associated with the safe and proper use of any pesticide product.

Figure 3. 

Herbicide drift injury on an ornamental tree.


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Herbicide runoff from an athletic field.


Credit:

John Boyd, University of Arkansas


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 5. 

Fish kill from a misapplication of pesticide.


Credit:

UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Legal Authority

When harm does occur, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) share joint responsibility to monitor and enforce the pesticide state and federal regulations in Florida. The overall goal is to protect property, animals, humans, and the environment from the application of pesticides.

FDACS is authorized under state law to enter, announced or unannounced, any public or private premises where pesticides are known or thought to be distributed, sold, offered for sale, held, stored, or applied to enforce and carry out investigations and inspection work as needed. FDACS investigates any complaint filed if the complaint is in writing, signed by the complainant, and is legally sufficient. A complaint is legally sufficient if it contains facts showing that a violation may have occurred. To determine legal sufficiency, FDACS may require supporting information or documentation. Anonymous complaints or a complaint made by a confidential informant may be investigated if:

  • The complaint is in writing.

  • The complaint is legally sufficient.

  • The alleged violation is substantial.

  • After preliminary inquiry, there is reason to believe that the alleged violation in the complaint is true.

Anyone who knowingly makes a false complaint in writing commits a punishable second-degree misdemeanor. Under certain circumstances, other agencies such as the Federal Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Environmental Protection, or local health departments may be called to assist in investigating a complaint.

Filing a Complaint

Citizens may file a complaint with FDACS if they believe that a pesticide has been misused. Complaints should be filed as soon as possible following an alleged misuse with the following information:

  • Name and contact information of the complainant/victim.

  • Name and address of the second party involved in the complaint (farm, company, neighbor, or other individual)

  • Date and time of the incident.

  • A description of the incident, including the name and/or EPA registration number of the pesticide(s) involved.

To file the complaint, contact:

FDACS Bureau of Inspection and Incident Response

3125 Conner Blvd., Suite N

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1650

(850) 617-7996 (phone)

(850) 617-7981 (fax)

The Complaint Process

Once FDACS receives a complaint, it is screened and assigned to the local inspector. Then basic steps are taken to compile the most accurate and complete information as soon as possible. To achieve this, the inspector follows a step-by-step process:

  1. Contact and interview parties involved in the complaint.

  2. Determine what pesticide(s) was used, if it was misused.

  3. Collect evidence.

  4. The inspector will submit a final report to the Bureau of Licensing and Enforcement for evaluation and determination if an action will be taken or not.

Summary

Pesticides provide benefits in many facets of daily life, including protecting food production and health, enhancing our recreational areas, maintaining our rights-of-way, and protecting wildlife, aquatic sites, and natural areas. However, misuse does occur and those who are negligent must take responsibility for their actions. Table 1 summarizes referrals issued by FDACS during Fiscal Year 2011–2012.

Tables

Table 1. 

Summary of referrals issued by FDACS (Fiscal Year 2011 – 2012).

Referral category description

Total by category

Unregistered products

106

Allegation of pesticide drift

44

Possible use or misuse of pesticide

19

Food or feed chemical residue

18

Allegation of pesticide exposure of a homeowner

16

Allegation of Worker Protection Standard violation

12

Allegation of environmental damage or contamination

11

Non Worker Protection Standard re-inspections

Allegation of a bird and fish kill

10

Allegation of human exposure

9

Allegation of bee kill

8

Failure to report pesticide production of EPA

7

USDA recordkeeping violation

6

Allegation of fish kill

5

Allegation of improper marketing or distribution of a pesticide(s)

Misbranded pesticide

Allegation of animal injury or death

3

Allegation of improper disposal of a pesticide

2

Allegation of occupational pesticide exposure of a worker

Allegation of groundwater issues

Distribution of a misbranded pesticide

Improper license

Improper package

Allegation of improper storage of a pesticide

1

Allegation of leaking containers

Allegation of an adulterated pesticide

Allegation of making a recommendation not in accordance with label instructions

Allegation of aerial application violation

Referred by Agency for Workforce Innovation

Total

313

Footnotes

1.

This document is PI241, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2012. Revised September 2015. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

F. M. Fishel, professor, Agronomy Department, and director, Pesticide Information Office; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.