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Are You Deciding to Use Pesticide

Last modified: 11/14/2013 4:17 PM

Broadly defined, a pesticide is any agent used to kill or control undesired insects, weeds, rodents, fungi, bacteria, or other organisms. Pesticides are classified according to their function: insecticides control insects; rodenticides control rodents; herbicides control weeds; and fungicides control fungi, mold and mildew.

Pesticides have enabled growers to produce some crops profitably in otherwise unsuitable locations, extend growing seasons, maintain product quality and extend shelf life. It enabled us to maintain our right-of-way reliable and safe, a major conduit for the flow of goods and services vital to our economy; also protected us from vector borne diseases and other emergency situations.

Nevertheless, these chemicals also pose some risks if used improperly or too frequently. Several problems and limitations have become apparent by relying solely on pesticides to control pests. Some of the problems include: pest resistance to pesticides; increased costs; toxicity to fish, wildlife, beneficial natural enemies of pests, and other non-target organisms; concerns about human health and safety; ground water contamination; and overall environmental quality. Pesticide exposure from drift to non-target areas; contamination of ground and surface waters and residues on food are topics of concern to the general public.

Is there any ideal pesticide?
Ideally, any pesticide that will act rapidly on pests yet be completely harmless to people, domestic animals, wildlife, and other aspects of the environment. Its residues would last only as long as was necessary to create the desired effect, usually for very short periods. It would also be inexpensive and readily available in necessary quantity, chemically stable (before application), non-flammable, and otherwise, safe to use around homes or industrial sites. It would be easily prepared and applied, no corrosive, and non-staining, and it would have no undesirable odor. Unfortunately, no such ideal pesticide exists!

The control of pests in an urban environment has historically meant using a chemical pesticide to reduce pest numbers once an outbreak has occurred. There has been a major mind shift philosophically and practically, to the concept of pest management. The transformation utilizes balanced approach of physical, cultural, biological, and chemical measures, with primary focus on environmentally compatible, economically feasible approach to manage pest populations under threshold or acceptable levels.

The Santa Clara County IPM program took a cautious approach by restricting use of certain categories of pesticides. All pesticide currently in use or intended to be used by user departments will undergo the screening process based on set criteria. The final outcome of the screening created the Approved List of Pesticides-2004. (Ref: Santa Clara County IPM Ordinance No. NS-517.70, Section 28-5(a).) Since no ideal pesticide exists, these pesticides will only be used as a last resort.

Approved List of Pesticides
The County has completed and compiled an initial review of approximately 300+ pesticide products. This was conducted in consultation with Dr. Lois Levitan, Program Leader: Department of Communication and Center for the Environment, Cornell University, NY. The contract work has now been completed with the release of Approved List of Pesticide-2004.

For additional information on Pesticide Risk Analysis, click on the following links:

Pesticide Use Exemption/Approval Process
Each Department IPM Coordinator should notify the County IPM Manager for necessary approval prior to opting for pesticide use (including pesticides on the approved list), unless an approval has been granted for extended periods of use. Use prescribed form Request for Pesticide Use Exemption for such requests. The County IPM Manager will work with the user department to determine the necessity of pesticide usage and related non-chemical alternatives, to achieve overall pesticide use reduction.

Should a department coordinator decide to use a pesticide or purchase one, the department (through Department IPM Coordinator) or property management representative should submit an application for exemption on behalf of the contractor to the County IPM Coordinator.

Review of New Pesticide Products
Review of Approved Pesticide list is a continuous process based on the renewed data availability from variety of sources. As new data is made available, screening process will reinforce its objectives. Department IPM Coordinators or Contractors should submit their request to the County IPM Manager in writing The County IPM Manager will continue to review additional products based on objective and subjective criteria as set forth. Please note that there may be a fee associated with the new product review, if additional consulting is required from a subject matter specialist. The requesting department or contractor will be asked to bear the consulting charges if there are any.