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Compliance Tips when "Going Green"
Compliance Tips when "Going Green"
Commercial Pesticide Operators are increasingly turning to non-conventional pesticides to branch out into different markets or to try to lower costs. Before a company jumps into using these types of products or marketing themselves differently, they should consider whether it is legal to do so. Some startup businesses are even under the impression that pesticide laws do not apply to them if they use certain pesticides. For example, ODA occasionally receives phone calls that go something like this:

Caller: “Hello, I am thinking about starting a business to apply natural products for bedbugs. Someone told me I needed a license, but I don’t really think I need one.”

ODA: “OK, so you are going to be applying pesticides for hire in residential and commercial properties?”

Caller: “Oh, these are not pesticides, these are completely natural, organic and safe products. I am quite sure I would not need a license to use them.”

ODA: “Well actually….”

With that, the discussion continues and ODA informs the caller about the definition of the term pesticide:

"Any substance or mixture of substances intended to be used for defoliating plants or for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating all insects, plant fungi, weeds, rodents, predatory animals or any other form of plant or animal life which is or which the department may declare to be a pest, which may infest or be detrimental to vegetation, humans, animals, or be present in any environment thereof."

In short, that means a pesticide is any substance that kills any pest. The definition makes no distinction between “conventional” pesticides and “organic” pesticides. Nor does the definition exclude homemade pesticides or other substances that are not marketed as a pesticide, but are being used by a person to kill a pest.

Here are some examples of “less toxic” substances we get calls about. Even though these ingredients are exempt from EPA registration, commercial applications of these products can only be made by licensed operators/applicators.
  • Cedar oil
  • Corn gluten meal
  • Citronella
Here are some examples of substances that are marketed for other purposes, but are sometimes used as pesticides. Commercial Pesticide Operators/Commercial Pesticide Applicators are not allowed to use these substances as a substitute for registered products. (Note: EPA-registered versions of iron sulfate and diatomaceous earth are available)
  • Iron sulfate (fertilizer used as moss control)
  • Diatomaceous earth (pool filter additive used as insecticide)
  • Beer (delicious beverage used as slug killer)

Next, ODA advises the caller that they must obtain a license to be in the business of making pesticide applications for others. For the business, they must obtain the Commercial Pesticide Operator license. For the person, they must obtain the Commercial Pesticide Applicator license. Both licenses must have the category or categories that correspond with the application site and type of pesticide being applied.

If you are reading this article, you may already be licensed. With respect to these types of products, make sure you have both the correct type of license and the correct categories. Remember that the principles of licensing and categories apply even if you are using products that could be classified as “organic,” “natural,” “safe,” “green,” or otherwise branded differently than “conventional” pesticides. Also note that as an operator, you have a responsibility to use EPA registered pesticides (or pesticides explicitly exempt from registration under FIFRA). Conducting pest control with homebrewed pesticides or other substances that are not labeled specifically for pest control is against the law.