1995 U.S. Pesticide Use at All-Time High
June 7, 1996
New unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
data documents that U.S. pesticide use reached an all-time
high of more than 1.2 billion pounds in 1995. This is over
twice as many pounds of chemicals as were used 30 years ago
when Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was published (540
million pounds in 1964). The unpublished data was obtained
and analyzed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).
According to NRDC, these all-time highs in pesticide use have
occurred despite the assertion by the pesticide industry that
it has adopted "stewardship" and "integrated pest management"
programs that result in smarter and lower pesticide use. The
House of Representatives and Senate are expected to consider
legislation weakening pesticide safety standards this month,
which also could result in even more pesticides being used in
The EPA draft document includes 1994 and 1995 figures for 30
chemicals, including acute toxins, suspected carcinogens and
chemicals thought to disrupt the human hormone system. The
data show that 1.23 billion pounds of pesticides were applied
in 1994, representing a jump of more than 100 million pounds
from the previous year. In 1995, 1.25 billion pounds were
According to NRDC and U.S. PIRG, EPA draft data likely
understates the true level of pesticides in the environment
for several reasons. EPA figures include only active
ingredients, and do not include so-called "inert" ingredients
such as petroleum, benzene and other toxic compounds. These
"inert" chemicals can comprise over 50% of the volume of
formulated pesticides. In addition, EPA figures exclude non-
conventional pesticide uses, such as wood preservatives and
disinfectants, which the that EPA has previously estimated at
more than one billion pounds per year. Taking these
additional uses into consideration, the total U.S. pesticide
use in 1994-1995 is estimated at more than 2.2 to 2.3 billion
pounds per year.
Use of pesticides in agriculture was at an all-time high in
1995, as was industrial, commercial and government use.
Expenditures on pesticides also hit a new high of $10.4
billion in 1995. More herbicides were used than during any
previous two-year period; more insecticides were used than
any previous year since 1981-82; and fungicide use was the
highest yet recorded and was over double the amount used in
1979. The reasons for the increase may include greater pest
resistance to pesticides, adverse climate factors and pest
infestations, as well as advertising and other factors
leading to greater farmer and other user acceptance of
Pesticides whose use in the U.S. increased considerably,
according to the draft EPA document, included methyl bromide,
metam sodium, dichloropropene, acetochlor, sulfur and
petroleum oils. Those pesticides whose use dropped
substantially included alachlor and cyanazine.
According to the new data, worldwide conventional pesticide
use also hit an all time high of 4.7 billion pounds in 1995,
with the U.S. share at 27% -- a higher percentage than in
recent years, according to previously released EPA data.
Source: NRDC and U.S. PIRG press release, May 28, 1996; NRDC
Summary of EPA Data, May 1996.
Contact: Erik Olson, NRDC, 1350 NY Ave NW #200, Washington DC
20005; phone (202) 783-7800; fax (202) 638-4937. Carolyn
Hartmann, U.S. PIRG, 218 D Street SE, Washington DC 20003;
phone (202) 546-9707; fax (202) 546-2461.
Regarding: PANUPS, May 24, 1996, "New Report Documents
Massive Pesticide Use in California."
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Seminar, 2020 Milvia, Suite 412, Berkeley, CA 94704; phone
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Make checks payable to UC Regents.
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