Information About Pesticides

Related pages: Seafood Safety |  Reporting Environmental Violations

Pesticides or ‘biocides’ are chemical compounds that kill or control the growth and reproduction of living organisms. Pesticides may be classified as algaecides (algae control), herbicides (‘weed killers’), insecticides, fungicides (mold and fungus), and rodenticides to name a few. They are used by many people and businesses. Homeowners use pesticides on their lawns and gardens, in the home, and even in their swimming pools. Farmers use pesticides on fields of corn, cranberries, potatoes, strawberry, grapes and other corps. Pesticides are used in greenhouses and nurseries, golf courses. Lawn care companies use them, as well as many government agencies. Even public schools use pesticides.

The Buzzards Bay NEP has conducted or been involved with few studies of pesticides in the Buzzards Bay watershed, but we do receive calls on where to get more information. Below are some helpful Government and University links on pesticide use, oversight, and permitting. In a section below we include EPA and other product safety information on some of the most commonly used pesticides.

Pesticide Law Regulations relating to Public Water supplies

In Massachusetts, some pesticides are classified as “General Use” and can be purchased and used by anyone. Other pesticides are classified as “Restricted Use” or “Limited Use” and can be purchased by and applied by Certified Applicators. In 1991, Massachusetts adopted regulations banning or limiting the use of certain pesticides within the recharge area (“Zone IIs”) of public drinking water supply wells. These restricted use pesticides are listed in the link below.

Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture summary page on pesticide use and regulation in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture Pesticide Registration application page.

Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture Pesticide Registration Classification page.

Massachusetts State Restricted Use Products List

Pesticide Laws and Regulations in Massachusetts

Massachusetts General Law 132B Massachusetts Pesticide Control Act
Massachusetts Right-of-Way pesticide regulations, information, and private well certification.
In Massachusetts, regulations now apply to the application of pesticides in public ways to protect public health.

Pesticide Regulations for Implementing MGL 132 B
Massachusetts Children’s Protection Act of 2000 (DFA Pesticide Bureau Page)
Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture Pesticide Bureau- the agency the enforces these regulations

General Links

Pesticide Storage and Handling Practices in the Home (Mass DFA Pesticide Bureau Page)
US EPA Pesticide Information Page
NOAA document (pdf file) on pesticide applications in coastal areas
US EPA interactive label page
US EPA Office of Pesticide Programs Pesticide Data Sources
CDC page on Protective Clothing for Pesticide Application (National Ag Center Database)

Information on Specific Chemicals

Massachusetts State Restricted Use Products List
“Extoxnet” Plain English information website on specific pesticides developed by a 3 university consortium
Extonet information on Carbaryl (sold as Bugmaster, Carbamec, Sevin, etc.)”
EPA Pesticide Site: Information for Kids, Students and Teachers
Extoxnet information on Diazinon (sold as Basudin, Gardentox, Nucidol, Spectracide, etc.)”
Website with Pesticide Safe Alternatives Suggestions
NRDC website with Pesticide Safe Alternatives Suggestions

By law, pesticides must be applied according to the specifications on the label. Failure to do so can result in severe fines, particularly if there is an inappropriate exposure to people or loss of wildlife. Failure to apply pesticides according to the label directions, including surface water retention times, probably account for most the pesticide related fish kills in Massachusetts.

These web pages lets you see the actual label and approved application requirements of most pesticides in use.

EPA pesticide registration information
California Department of Pesticide Registration Page
Crop Data Management Systems, Inc. – Pesticide product labels database (easy to use)
US EPA Pesticide Product Label System (PPLS) – Search (need to look up Pesticide Product Registration Numbers)

There are many pesticide formulations. Here are some sample labels:
Sample Label for “Sevin XLR”

Sample Label for “Lorsban”

Sample Label for “Diazinon”

Sample Label for “Orthene”


Articles on Pesticide Related Fish Kills

Fish kills are most often the result of low oxygen conditions caused by eutrophication. Occasionally fish kills result from inappropriate use of pesticides. Here are some interesting cases.

Massachusetts DEP issues fines for toxic release, fish kill
State of Washington Legal Case