Audit at a Glance—Report 1—Pesticide Safety
Audit at a Glance Report 1—Pesticide Safety
What we examined (see Focus of the audit)
This audit focused on whether the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (the Agency) managed selected aspects of its mandate in accordance with the Pest Control Products Act, to prevent unacceptable risks to the health of Canadians and the environment.
Why we did this audit
This audit is important because these aspects of the Agency’s mandate are essential to fulfilling its primary objective of preventing unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the use of pesticides.
What we concluded
We concluded that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency considered health and environmental risks, and value, in re-evaluating older pesticides. However, with respect to conditional registrations, re-evaluations, special reviews, and cancellations of registrations, we concluded that the Agency had not always acted in a timely manner to fulfill its statutory objective of preventing unacceptable risks to the health of Canadians and the environment from the use of pesticides.
What we found
Conditional registrations of pesticides
Overall, we found that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency allowed conditionally registered pesticides to be in use for lengthy periods—in many cases, for more than the five-year period it normally allowed—without having received and assessed the required studies and data. As a result, the Agency could not confirm its risk or value assessments. In addition, the Agency had never exercised its authority to cancel a conditional registration when the registrant failed to satisfy the conditions.
This finding is important because while a conditionally registered product is in use, sometimes for a prolonged period, the Agency has not confirmed one or more aspects of its risk assessment. Furthermore, users may come to depend on a product that is ultimately shown to be unsafe. Market dependence and the lack of alternatives could make it more difficult for the Agency to cancel the registration of products that are later recognized to pose unacceptable risks. Eight of nine products that have been conditionally registered for more than a decade belong to the neonicotinoid class of pesticides. These products are now used extensively in Canada and are widely suspected of being a threat to bees, other pollinators, and broader ecosystems.
Recommendation. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency should ensure that registrants respect the timelines specified in conditional registrations for providing required information. It should also assess the data within its established two-year timeline to determine the continued acceptability of pest control products and active ingredients.
Re-evaluations of pesticides
Overall, we found that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency did not manage an important aspect of its re-evaluations of pesticides according to the Pest Control Products Act. Although the Agency considered the value of pesticides and their health and environmental risks, it did not assess their cumulative effects on human health when required by the Act. In addition, the Agency had made insufficient progress in completing the re-evaluations of older pesticides.
These findings are important because the Agency must apply the latest available scientific knowledge and data to its re-evaluations to confirm that the health and environmental risks of older pesticides remain within acceptable limits. If the Agency does not consider the cumulative health effects of pesticides in its re-evaluations, it lacks potentially important information about risks and how they should be managed. The Agency’s slowness in completing risk assessments may cause product labels and mitigation measures to become outdated, and pesticides remaining on the market might no longer meet current standards. Such situations could expose users and the environment to unacceptable risks.
Recommendation. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency should finalize and apply the methodology required to ensure that it considers cumulative health effects of pesticides in its re-evaluations, as required by the Pest Control Products Act.
Recommendation. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency should establish realistic timelines for completing its re-evaluations of active ingredients registered before 1995, and should complete them accordingly.
Recommendation. With respect to its overall work planning for re-evaluations, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency should ensure that its schedule of work is complete and up to date.
Special reviews of pesticides
Overall, we found that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (the Agency) was in the process of deciding whether special reviews of pesticides banned for all uses between June 2013 and December 2014 in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries were warranted.
This finding is important because special reviews are intended to enable the Agency to act promptly on new information about risks to human health and the environment that may emerge in the 15-year period between initial registration and re-evaluation. If special reviews are not conducted in a timely manner, products with unacceptable risks may remain in use in Canada, or be used without appropriate mitigation or precautionary measures.
Recommendation. We made no recommendations in this area of examination.
Cancellation of pesticide registrations
Overall, we found that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency did not promptly cancel the registration of some pesticides when it determined that they posed unacceptable risks. In all but one case, the Agency took between 4 and 11 years to cancel the registrations. In several cases, the Agency cited the lack of alternatives as the reason for delaying cancellations. In other cases, the cancellations were delayed to allow suppliers and users to exhaust their inventories.
Our findings are important because lengthy delays in cancelling the registration of pesticides that have been found to pose unacceptable risks that cannot be mitigated prolong the time that workers, the public, and the environment are exposed to those risks. The Pest Control Products Act states that the Agency’s primary objective is to prevent unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the use of pest control products. Lengthy delays are contrary to the Agency’s statutory objective.
Recommendation. When the Pest Management Regulatory Agency determines that the risks posed by a pesticide are unacceptable for all uses, it should act promptly to cancel the pesticide’s registration.
Communication with the public
Overall, we found that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency failed to maintain a complete public registry of conditionally registered products and their associated conditions. The Agency’s public registry did not make clear whether a pesticide was conditionally registered, and information on conditions of registration was sometimes missing or out of date. Other information that was not always readily available included which products the Agency had decided to remove from the market, which uses it had decided to prohibit, what mitigation measures it had decided to put in place, and when changes would take effect.
Our findings are important because Canadians need up to date information, to make informed decisions about pesticide use. If the Agency does not provide required information and communicate risks effectively, Canadians cannot make informed decisions on how to use products safely.
The Agency did not provide the public with complete information on conditional registrations, as required by the Pest Control Products Act, or effectively communicate new information on pesticide risks
Recommendation. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency should maintain its public registry of pest control products, as required by the Pest Control Products Act, to clearly communicate which products are conditionally registered and what their associated conditions of registration are.
Recommendation. To ensure that end users can make informed decisions on pesticide use, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency should consistently communicate timely and readily accessible information on:
- which products it has decided to remove from the market,
- which uses it has decided to prohibit,
- what mitigation measures it has decided to put in place, and
- when these changes will take effect.
Entity Responses to Recommendations
The audited entity agrees with our recommendations, and has responded (see List of Recommendations).
|Report of the||Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development|
|Type of product||Performance audit|
|Completion date||27 October 2015|
|Tabling date||26 January 2016|
|Related audits||Chapter 1—Managing the Safety and Accessibility of Pesticides , 2003 October Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development|
For more information
The Commissionner’s Comments
Pest Management Agency needs to quicken its pace to prevent unacceptable risks to Canadians and the environment