How is the impact of a pesticide on wildlife determined?

April 23, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Before a pesticide can even go to market, extensive amounts of testing, including ecology/toxicology studies, must be done by the manufacturer. This testing data must be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for review to decide whether to register (approve) the pesticide for use. EPA's decision is based on a benefit-to-risk analysis of the data, which must assure EPA that the pesticide will perform its intended function without unreasonable adverse effects on people, wildlife, and the environment.

The direct impact a pesticide has on wildlife is determined by the sensitivity of a species to the chemical and the degree to which the species is exposed. Predator species may be at increased risk for pesticide exposure if they feed on prey that have been exposed to pesticides. Just how safe are pesticides to wildlife? Some of the questions below encompass the complexity that scientists need to evaluate when attempting to assess the impact of pesticides on wildlife.

  1. What level of a pesticide residue or its breakdown product will the wildlife be exposed to?
  2. How long does the pesticide remain in the environment?
  3. How will the wildlife be exposed to the pesticide?
  4. Is the level of pesticide residue capable of producing, illness, or death through either single or multiple exposures?

For more information, see Federal Pesticide Testing Requirements for Wildlife on the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship website and this Purdue Publication: Pesticide and Wildlife: An Introduction to Testing, Registration, and Risk Management.

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