By Heather F. Collins, M.S. and Barbara A. Christianson
On November 4, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the release of an updated list of pests of significant health importance for public review and comment. 85 Fed. Reg. 70146.
EPA, in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), identifies pests of significant public health importance, and in coordination with the Public Health Service, develops and implements programs to improve and facilitate the safe and necessary use of chemical, biological, and other methods to combat and control such pests of public health importance. According to EPA, the list serves as a tool for private and public organizations, including local or state governments, departments of public health, pesticide registrants, and non-governmental organizations, when making decisions and plans about future public health actions.
Since this list’s original publication in 2002, new vector-borne diseases have been identified and pests that had been previously thought of as benign or nuisance pests have been found to impact adversely public health. EPA, CDC, and USDA collaborated to update the list to incorporate significant changes regarding vector-borne diseases and related research, and eliminate gaps or ambiguities in the current pests list.
EPA states in the notice that the draft Pesticide Registration (PR) Notice 2020-X more precisely describes both the pests and expected public health impacts and adds several new pests (the brown dog tick) and public health impacts (Zika fever and coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2) and that other pests have been renamed or grouped with similar species or removed altogether (hobo spider).
Draft PR Notice 2020-X describes the groups of pests and their potential impact on public health as follows:
- Arthropods: The listed arthropods may cause asthma or trigger allergies, contaminate food, irritate skin, cause direct injury, or carry diseases such as epidemic typhus, trench fever, epidemic relapsing fever, malaria, encephalitis (St. Louis, Eastern, Western, West Nile, and LaCrosse), yellow fever, dengue fever, and many others.
- Vertebrates: The listed organisms have the potential for direct human injury and can act as disease reservoirs for rabies and other diseases. The rats and mice include those that spread rodent-borne diseases and contaminate food for human consumption.
- Microorganisms and acellular particles: This category includes listed bacteria, fungi, protozoans, viruses, virusoids, and prions. The microorganisms and acellular particles listed in this category cause diseases such as COVID-19, cholera, meningitis, Legionnaire’s Disease, and many others.
The complete list of pests is identified in draft PR Notice 2020-X in Appendix A.
EPA states that the list does not affect the regulatory status of any registration or application for registration of any pesticide product.
Comments on the draft PR Notice are due on or before January 4, 2021, in Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0260.