EPA's Efforts to Collect and Take Action on Exposure Incident Data

RCED-95-163: Published: Jul 12, 1995. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) monitoring of human exposures to pesticides, focusing on whether EPA: (1) collects data on exposure arising from the use on nonagricultural pesticides; (2) takes action in response to potential health risks from such exposure; and (3) receives sufficient information to assess whether unacceptable risks are occurring.

GAO found that: (1) EPA has collected pesticide exposure data from pesticide registrants and public and private entities since the 1970s and, in 1992, it implemented a computerized system to organize and track such data; (2) EPA has not assigned full-time staff to data collection and processing; therefore, the system has a data entry backlog, which limits its effectiveness; (3) EPA acted in 19 instances between 1989 and 1994 to protect the public from pesticide risks; (4) EPA often cannot assess whether a pesticide poses an unacceptable health risk, since incident reports frequently lack key data, may not be representative, or are not submitted; (5) an EPA work group is developing a long-term plan to collect and manage exposure data, but it has yet to develop a plan for putting the most cost-effective improvements into effect; (6) to improve the number and quality of exposure reports, EPA has proposed a rule that requires pesticide registrants to submit more detailed data on exposure incidents and clarifies the registrants' responsibilities; (7) EPA is determining the feasibility of having registrants who submit large numbers of reports to submit them electronically; and (8) the current exposure monitoring system includes data on both agricultural and nonagricultural pesticides, since EPA collects and processes the same information for those chemicals.

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