Summer is fast approaching and that means you can count on insects like mosquitos, fleas, and ticks to invade homes and yards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of people each year contract an insect-borne disease in the United States such as Zika, West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.
Cockroaches in homes and schools contribute to allergies and asthma. Norovirus has shut down schools, restaurants, and cruise ships. C. difficile, a bacterial infection, can spread quickly in hospitals and nursing homes, leading to death in some cases. The four Ebola cases in the U.S. in 2014 attracted significant media coverage and led to the monitoring and/or quarantine of hundreds of people.
All this confirms what we already know: Americans must have access to a wide-range of readily available and effective products, including pesticides, insecticides, mosquito and tick repellants, disinfectants and sanitizers to combat these increasingly prevalent public health issues.
Right now, the Senate is considering a little-known bill that does just that.
The “Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017” packs a public health punch to help prevent vector-borne diseases and the transmission of bacteria and viruses. The bill, which passed the House by a voice vote on March 20, reauthorizes and improves the law that governs the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval process for pesticides, disinfectants, and sanitizers used in the U.S.
This important piece of legislation has strong bipartisan support, and is also staunchly backed by an unusual partnership: industry trade groups, environmental organizations, farm worker groups and state agricultural regulators.
The bill would reauthorize the law for seven years and increase registration fees on industry, which would supplement Congressional appropriations to EPA for managing its pesticide registration program. In return for the fees, EPA would give industry predictable approval timelines for over 200 product categories – allowing for the growth and development of innovative new health protection products. Production of new products would add jobs to the U.S. economy.
The legislation would also make sure that EPA receives funding to meet deadlines for issuing efficacy guidelines for pesticides so that industry would know what tests are required to get safe and effective products registered. This means continued availability of pesticides that kill crawling and flying insects, fire ants and bed bugs in schools, hotels, dorms and movie theaters. And you’d still be able to find flea and tick collars and spot-on products that protect dogs and cats.
The bill would also provide for education and training of farm workers so they can use pesticides responsibly and safely for their intended purposes.
So why do we need this legislation?
Pesticides, insecticides, repellants, disinfectants and sanitizers are vital to fighting diseases brought on by insects or bacteria and viruses passed through human contact. These products cannot legally be used in the U.S. unless they are registered with EPA, which ensures that products are safe and effective when used per the label instructions. Every legal pesticide has an EPA registration number on its label.
With strong bipartisan support, the House has done its job in passing the bill and now the Senate needs to act soon. Otherwise, come Sept. 30, EPA will no longer have the resources needed to review and register new products in a predictable timeframe, thus limiting the ability of manufacturers to bring innovative new products to the marketplace.
This is a program that EPA gets right and it benefits all Americans, so let’s make sure the agency continues to have the dedicated resources to protect the health and safety of our communities.
Steve Caldeira is President and CEO of the Consumer Specialty Products Association based in Washington, D.C.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.