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California Environmental Protection Agency

Department of Pesticide Regulation

Date: September 27, 2000 (00-22)
Web site:

Media Contact:
Veda Federighi,
Glenn Brank,
(916) 445-3974

DPR Reports Overall Pesticide Use Declined in 1999

SACRAMENTO - The Department of Pesticide Regulation, part of the California Environmental Protection Agency, today reported that pesticide use statewide declined by more than 11.7 million pounds from 1998 to 1999. It marked the first decline in three years.

DPR's preliminary data showed reported pesticide applications totaled 202.6 million pounds in 1999, compared to 214.3 million pounds for 1998.

"The Davis Administration encourages growers and other pesticide users to act as stewards of the environment," said Winston Hickox, Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA). "This is another sign of progress toward that goal."

DPR Director Paul Helliker highlighted several statistics from the report. "The 1999 data shows less use of organophosphate chemicals -- a category that includes many high-toxicity compounds," Helliker said. "At the same time, we are pleased to see more use of reduced-risk materials and biopesticides that rely on natural pest control."

Reported use includes production agriculture and postharvest fumigation of crops, structural pest control, landscape maintenance, and other uses. Home and garden applications of pesticides, and most industrial and institutional uses, are exempt from reporting. (Preliminary data summaries are on DPR's Web site. DPR expects to release a finalized report at year's end.)

Use report statistics provide DPR, the University of California, the agricultural industry, and public interest groups with basic research material. For example, use data help DPR focus grants on projects that seek to replace high-toxicity pesticide uses with reduced-risk alternatives. The Davis Administration's 2000-01 Budget provided funding for continuing PUR analysis.

Among statistics from the 1999 use report data:

  • Use of high-toxicity organophosphate and carbamate chemicals declined by almost 800,000 pounds from 1998. Area treated declined by more than 758,000 acres.
  • Chemicals categorized as ground water contaminants also declined -- by about 414,000 pounds applied and 40,200 acres treated.
  • Chemicals classified as carcinogens declined in overall acreage treated, but increased in pounds applied. Most of the 2-million-pound increase could be attributed to two fumigants -- 1,3-D and metam-sodium. DPR analysts said metam-sodium poundage increased as a pre-plant soil treatment for a few crops where acreage increased, including carrots, potatoes, and processing tomatoes.
  • Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins also showed an overall decline in acreage treated and increased poundage. Two fumigants -- metam-sodium and methyl bromide -- accounted for most of the 5.3-million-pound increase. DPR analysts linked more methyl bromide use to more strawberry plantings, and to one-time treatments of soil before winegrape planting and replanting.

"This data supports DPR decisions to tighten the regulation of fumigants while we work on the difficult task of finding reduced-risk alternatives to these pesticides," said Helliker. "For example, DPR has awarded more than $186,000 to the strawberry industry since 1998 to help explore alternatives to methyl bromide. Our latest, $93,000 strawberry grant awarded in May is devoted exclusively to non-chemical alternatives."

By the end of this year, DPR expects to have awarded more than $7 million since 1995 for least-toxic pesticide research and alternatives projects under its Pest Management Grants Program.

California was the first state to require full use reporting, and DPR has compiled the reports in the most extensive database of its kind in the nation. DPR analyses show pesticide use varies from year to year, depending upon pest problems, weather, cropping patterns, and other factors.

Summaries of 1999 pesticide use are available free online. Data summaries from 1990 to 1998 are also available. Each summary includes two versions of the data (one indexed by chemical, the other by crop), with number of applications, acreage or units treated, and pounds of pesticide used. A county-by-county summary of pesticide use is also available online.

The 400-page summaries also may be ordered in hard copy ($10 each) or on diskette ($2.50). To order, send payment to: Cashier, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, 830 K Street, Sacramento 95814-3510. A complete data set of the 2.5 million-plus individual 1999 pesticide application records is also available on CD ROM for $12. For information about the CD-ROM, call the DPR Environmental Monitoring and Pest Management Branch at (916) 324-4100.

One of six boards and departments within Cal/EPA, DPR regulates the sale and use of pesticides to protect human health and the environment.

(Note to editors: A county-by-county breakdown of pesticide use is available PDF. (66 kb)

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