Washing Machine: Device or Pesticide? EPA Will Judge, Case by Case

EPA issued a notice last week clarifying its position on the distinction between "devices" and "pesticides" with regard to ion-generating equipment. The notice explains why such equipment--including silver-ion-generating washing machines--will now be regulated as a pesticide. EPA has determined that these machines will be regulated as pesticides if the machines contain silver or other substances, and if they generate ions of those substances for express pesticidal purposes. The agency will work with manufacturers to identify the information needed to apply to register the machine as a pesticide, and give those products currently out of compliance time to obtain registration, according to the notice.

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, a product that uses only physical or mechanical means to trap, destroy, repel, or mitigate a pest (including microbial pests) is a device and is not required to be registered (though its production and labeling are regulated). However, if the product incorporates a substance or mixture of substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests, then it is considered to be a pesticide and is required to be registered. Determinations as to whether a product is a device or pesticide are made on a case-by-case basis, EPA said. The silver-ion-generating washing machine is marketed with claims that it will kill bacteria on clothing. Silver is already regulated as a pesticide active ingredient in other registered products.

EPA said it will work with producers of ion generators to identify what data and other information are required to support an application for registration and to obtain registrations to bring such equipment into compliance for equipment being distributed or sold in the United States. A summary of the implementation schedule is included in the September 21 Federal Register notice. For further information, contact Melba S. Morrow, 703-308-2716, morrow.melba@epa.gov.

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