Pesticide Reregistration May Not Be Completed Until 2006 Gao ID: RCED-93-94 May 21, 1993

Many pesticides are in use today that have never been fully evaluated for their potential to cause cancer, reproductive disorders, birth defects, and environmental damage. More than 20 years ago, Congress required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reassess and reregister thousands of older pesticides using current scientific standards. Although EPA has made progress in completing the first several steps of the reregistration process, the agency will be unable to complete the pesticide reassessment in 1997 and product reregistration in 1998 as expected. EPA believes that the program may not be completed until 2006. Meanwhile, most of these products continue to be sold and distributed despite sketchy knowledge of their health and environmental effects. EPA will be unable to complete the program on schedule because it did not take into account the complexity and magnitude of the reregistration task or the resources needed to conduct the program. Also, a large number of the studies that the registrants submitted as part of the process have been unacceptable. In addition, EPA's progress in reregistering pesticides used mainly on food products--those with the greatest potential to cause serious health problems--has been much slower than expected. Concentrating on these high-priority pesticides could help EPA assess their risks more quickly and accelerate actions to reduce those risks.

GAO found that: (1) EPA has only reregistered 31 pesticide products, but it has reassessed 2,400 products, most of which are on its highest-priority list; (2) EPA has only reviewed about 60 percent of the studies on the pesticides on its highest-priority list; (3) EPA estimates it will complete reregistration for all pesticides by 2003 or 2006, depending on funding; (4) the factors delaying reregistration beyond 1998 include the length and complexity of the reregistration process, inadequate program resources, and insufficient data to permit full reassessment of the pesticides; (5) EPA has substituted laboratory toxicity tests for field tests to reduce the length and complexity of the reregistration process; (6) EPA is studying the reasons for the high rejection rate for unacceptable pesticide studies, which it expects to complete by July 1993, but it may not be able to reduce the rejection rate to the anticipated 10-percent level; (7) EPA did not discover until 1990 that more than one-half of its highest-priority list studies lacked a substantial amount of required information, and estimated that additional studies would take 2 to 4 years to complete; and (8) EPA has not met its projected schedules for reassessing its highest-priority list pesticides because of incomplete information.


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