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Pesticide Registration

Pesticide Emergency Exemptions

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Introduction to Pesticide Emergency Exemptions

Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authorizes EPA to allow Emergency Exemptions (also called “Section 18s”) for unregistered uses of pesticides to address emergency conditions. Under such an exemption, EPA allows limited use of the pesticide in defined geographic areas for a finite period of time once EPA confirms that the situation meets that statutory definition of "emergency condition." The regulations governing Section 18 of FIFRA (found at Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 166 (40 CFR 166)) define the term “Emergency Condition” as an urgent, non-routine situation that requires the use of a pesticide(s). EPA must also conduct assessments of potential risks to human health and the environment which confirm the pesticide use meets the required safety standards. The maximum duration of an Emergency Exemption may be:

  • One year for Specific or Public Health Exemptions.
  • Three years for Quarantine Exemptions.

Emergency Exemptions can be requested by State or Federal agencies when an emergency condition (e.g., serious pest problem) jeopardizes production of agricultural goods, the environment, or public health, but there are inadequate tools (including pesticide registrations) to address the situation. The applicants submit information describing the pest emergency and request permission for a specific unregistered pesticide use. Instructions for applicants and detailed listings of required information to include in emergency exemption requests may be found at 40 CFR 166.

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Types of Emergency Exemptions

  1. Specific:
    • Majority of requests are for Specific Exemptions.
    • Requested when an emergency condition exists, in order to avert a significant economic loss, or a significant risk to the environment, which may include risks to endangered or threatened species and beneficial organisms.
    • Growers or agricultural research scientists identify a pest situation that available tools (including registered pesticides) will not alleviate.
    • State lead pesticide agency requests an Emergency Exemption from EPA.
    • EPA evaluates the request and decides whether or not to authorize the use.
    • Specific Exemptions may be authorized for up to one year.
  2. Quarantine:
    • Requested to control the introduction or spread of an invasive pest species not previously known to occur in the United States and its territories.
    • "Emergency” based on the need to prevent the introduction or spread of a harmful invasive species.
    •  Quarantine Exemptions may be authorized for up to three years.
  3. Public Health:
    • Requested to control a pest that will cause a significant risk to human health.
    • Emergency is based upon the risk to human health presented by the pest.
    • Public Health Exemptions may be authorized for up to one year.
  4. Crisis:
    • Requested when there is an immediate need for a Specific, Quarantine, or Public Health Exemption.
    • Following communication confirming EPA’s concurrence, the State or Federal agency may issue a Crisis Exemption allowing the unregistered use to proceed for up to 15 days.
    • EPA concurrence confirms that the required safety findings can be made.
    • A Crisis Exemption may be “stand-alone” or may be allowed in conjunction with a full request for a Specific, Quarantine, or Public Health Emergency Exemption. If such a full request is submitted, use is allowed to continue under the Crisis Exemption until EPA makes a decision on the request for a Specific, Quarantine, or Public Health Exemption.

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Evaluating Emergency Exemption Requests

EPA strives to evaluate and make decisions on the requests for Emergency Exemptions as expeditiously as possible. In some cases, EPA may need additional time to complete its review, for example when:

  • the exemption request is for a new active ingredient,
  • additional data are needed to support the request (e.g., toxicity, exposure, efficacy), or
  • potential risk or regulatory issues are identified. 

EPA performs a multi-disciplinary evaluation of the request, comprised of the following assessments:

  • Validity of the emergency claim (including economic loss, if reason for request).
  • Risks to human health through dietary and non-dietary (e.g., inhalation, dermal, etc.) exposures.
  • Risks to workers through occupational exposures.
  • Ecological risks through environmental exposures.
  • Progress toward registration of the use (Specific and Public Health Exemption requests only).

If the Emergency Exemption use may result in residues in food or animal feed items, EPA will establish formal tolerances (maximum permissible residue levels) at 40 CFR Part 180, to allow for potential pesticide residues in food or feed items. Tolerances established for Emergency Exemption uses are time-limited, corresponding to the time that treated commodities might be found in channels of trade.

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For More Information


Questions concerning Section 18 Emergency Exemptions can be directed to EPA’s Section 18 Emergency Response Team Leader: Tawanda Maignan ( 703-308-8050.

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