Issues Concerning Pesticides Used in the Great Lakes Watershed

RCED-93-128: Published: Jun 14, 1993. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the amount and type of pesticides used in the Great Lakes watershed, focusing on: (1) whether pesticides contribute to toxic chemical levels in the Great Lakes; (2) pesticide storage and disposal in the Great Lakes region; and (3) whether the pesticides used are subject to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) pesticide reregistration program.

GAO found that: (1) the federal government and private organizations lack sufficient database systems to track pesticide usage in the Great Lakes watershed; (2) out of an estimated 56 million pounds of pesticides used annually within the U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes watershed, 46 million pounds are used on agricultural crops and 10 million pounds are used on lawns and U.S. golf courses; (3) herbicides account for three-quarters of the total agricultural pesticides and are applied by aerial sprayers to control weeds; (4) fungicides and insecticides account for the remaining agricultural pesticides and are applied largely to fruits and vegetables to control diseases and pests; (5) persistent pesticides are retained in the Great Lakes for long periods and eventually bioaccumulate because only 1 percent of Great Lakes water is circulated annually, allowing pesticides to settle in lake-bottom sediments; (6) results from fish-tissue monitoring show that restricted pesticides are still being detected at high concentrations and may be more persistent than previously thought; (7) EPA needs to complete its water quality monitoring program and use current and accurate data in its pesticide reregistration program so that it can fulfill its pesticide monitoring requirements; and (8) although EPA has instituted a program to dispose of unusable pesticides in the Great Lakes watershed, large quantities of banned, spoiled, and improperly stored pesticides remain.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has reviewed the Great Lakes report and has incorporated the report into the reregistration database. As appropriate, the report will be considered during the reregistration reassessment of the relevant pesticides.

    Recommendation: To more effectively reregister pesticides, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Office of Pesticide Programs to incorporate the results of the Great Lakes National Program Office's study of pesticides in the Great Lakes in the EPA reregistration reassessment of these pesticides.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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