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What is a Pesticide? 

U.S. EPA Office of Pesticide Programs 14feb97 

(verified 19feb2006)

EPA Definition

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, unwanted plants (weeds), fungi, or microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.

Many household products are pesticides.

Did you know that all of these common products are considered pesticides?

By their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms. In the United States, the Office of Pesticide Programs of the Environmental Protection Agency is chiefly responsible for regulating pesticides. Biologically-based pesticides, such as pheromones and microbial pesticides, are becoming increasingly popular and often are safer than traditional chemical pesticides.

Here are some common kinds of pesticides and their function:

The term pesticide also includes these substances:

What about pest control devices?

EPA also has a role in regulating devices used to control pests. More specifically, a "device" is any instrument or contrivance (other than a firearm) intended for trapping, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. A mousetrap is an example of a device. Unlike pesticides, EPA does not require devices to be registered with the Agency. Devices are subject to certain labeling, packaging, record keeping, and import/export requirements, however.

What is not a pesticide?

The U.S. definition of pesticides is quite broad, but it does have some exclusions:

source: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/whatis.htm  EPA Office of Pesticide Programs updated July 12, 2001
now at: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/about/ verified 19feb2006

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