(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2008) The Oregon Department of Agriculture has released the 2007 Pesticide Use Reporting System (PURS) annual report, summarizing data collected last year -making it the first report to include information from a mandatory electronic reporting of pesticide use statewide. The requirement to report online applies to anyone using a registered pesticide or pest control product in the course of business, for a government entity, or in a public place. The 2007 annual report also includes data from a household pesticide use survey. The release comes nine years after being authorized by the state legislature, due to debate over funding and scope of the report. The required reporting is also set to expire in 2009, requiring activists to lobby for continuation of the program.
For 2007, there were 5,732 reporters who filed 284,984 reports of pesticide use into PURS. The reports identified 551 active ingredients used statewide last year. The most used active ingredient, by pounds, was the soil fumigant metam-sodium (42 percent of total pounds reported), which is often used before planting potatoes to kill most soil life. The next two most commonly used active ingredients were the herbicide glyphosate (9 percent), and copper naphthenate (7 percent), used as a wood preservative. The most common pesticide applied to homes is bifenthrin, a possible human carcinogen.
Among all site categories of pesticide use reported to PURS, agriculture reported the greatest percentage of active ingredients by pounds, at 84.7 percent. Because of licensing requirements for pesticide use on agricultural and forest crops, along with outreach efforts to agricultural and forestry pesticide applicators, it is likely that compliance with the requirement to report to PURS was greatest for these site categories. It is important to note that PURS data pertains to usage, with no determination of improper pesticide use.
“From what the statewide report tells us, there does not appear to be very many surprises regarding pesticide use in Oregon,” says ODA Director Katy Coba. “Oregon pesticide use shows similarities with what neighboring California has been finding through their reporting system. One year’s data is interesting, but we hope the reports collected this year and in the future will help provide a more clear picture of trends in Oregon’s pesticide use.” Unlike California, however, Oregon’s report does not list acres treated, detail pesticides used on specific crops, or note carcinogenic and reproductive effects of certain chemicals.
“I would like more detailed information, but politically that’s going to be a hard battle,” said Aimee Code, water-quality coordinator for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). “For me, it’s always just shocking to look at how many pounds of things that we know are poisons are being put on our land and water.”
The 2007 PURS report identifies a number of challenging issues that may have kept the data from being complete. Some reporters had varying skill levels and access regarding online reporting. Some did not understand the mandatory reporting deadline. Others had trouble identifying the product used. ODA will continue working to improve PURS and provide further outreach and education to those pesticide users required to report.
Although detailed information on 2007 non-household pesticide use was electronically collected, the law that created PURS protects confidentiality of individual users and requires ODA to prepare an annual report summarizing the data collected through PURS. That confidentiality also makes it impossible for the state to track pesticide use at specific parks and schools, something activists think would make the tracking more effective in reducing pesticide use.
The 2007 PURS report also contains the second year of household use data collected by a voluntary statewide survey. There is no requirement for households to report their pesticide usage online.
While 1,693 households agreed to complete pesticide use diaries last year, only 1,483 actually completed at least one month of reporting. The survey shows only 40 percent of the household reports contained sufficient information to calculate pounds of active ingredients used. The greatest percentage of pesticide applications in a household setting was reported to have taken place outdoors. The major purpose listed for pesticide use was to control all types of “bugs” (fleas, insects, spiders, etc.), closely followed by weed control. Challenges included participants being unable to specify the amount of pesticide used, determine what products were actually pesticides, and provide correct product identification. Information collected from the 2007 household survey is considered insufficient to calculate total household use of pesticides in Oregon.
There are alternatives to toxic pesticides available for a wide range of household pests and weeds. For a list, visit our alternatives fact sheets.