Annual report submissions are subjected to an extensive, multi-phase review process by PSUR and the DEC. When making use of this data, one should also be aware of the following limitations:
There is no corroborating data to check the accuracy of the reported sales and applications. However, the data accuracy is checked in other ways during the review process (see Data Quality Assurance).
Pesticide Sales vs Usage:
Pesticide sales in any given year may not reflect use in that same year. However, over several years sales and use may be more likely to balance (Mineau, 2019a & Mineau, 2019b).
Use of ZIP Codes:
The PRL requires that applications and private applicator sales data be reported by both county and ZIP code. However, ZIP codes are limited to postal delivery locations. Large wilderness areas, farmland,
rights-of-way, and similar locations may not have an officially designated ZIP code and are assigned to a nearby ZIP code area by the data vendor. This assignment is sometimes ambiguous.
The PRL further requires that the locations of individual applications and sales are not disclosed in the public summary data. Since some ZIP codes are assigned
to a specific organization or can be used to identify a single address, data for these locations are reassigned to the larger enclosing ZIP code if one is available. If no enclosing ZIP code exists,
the data is masked in the database using the "private" ZIP code category.
Quantities and Quantity Units:
Quantities for some pesticides are sometimes misreported using both weight- and volume-based units. However, the formulation of a pesticide product is either a liquid or a solid and the quantity of a
product applied or sold must be measured with the corresponding type of units. In some cases, PSUR is able to fix this issue by converting to the units that match the formulation type of the product
(see Data Revisions). When this conversion cannot be made, rather than reject these reported quantities, we list both the weight and volume-based
units for the product.
The amounts of pesticides used or sold that are listed in the database may exceed actual amounts for several reasons:
- Pesticide products are routinely diluted with inert material prior to application. Some applicators report the amount of product and diluent applied, rather than the amount of product only.
The DEC and PSUR have worked to educate the pesticide businesses and applicators about this issue since the inception of the PRL reporting requirement. PSUR is able to identify and
correct some instances of this error (see Data Quality Assurance).
- Only the original sale of a product is recorded, but private applicators sometimes return unused pesticides, and returns are not recorded by the DEC. Currently, we have no way to correct data
to account for return of unused pesticides.
Unknown Sales of General Use Products to Private Applicators:
A portion of sales of general use pesticides to certified private applicators is not reported/included in the database. This is because only commercial applicators are required to purchase pesticides from commercial permit holders,
while private applicators can legally purchase general use agricultural pesticides from both commercial permit holders and sales outlets that do not need a permit. Only the sales by permit holders are
captured by the PRL data.
Some pesticide applicators and commercial permittees report that they made no applications or sales when in fact they did. These sales and applications are not captured in the PRL database. The DEC’s inspectors check for this
as does PSUR, but there is no practical way to do so systematically.
Failure to Report:
Some pesticide applicators and commercial permittees that are required to file an annual report, do not report their data to us. However, in order to renew their certification or permit, they are required to file all missed
PRL reports for the previous four reporting years. If a business or applicator does not renew, we do not receive any missed PRL reports.
While we are able to prevent loading the database with most duplicate reports, there are situations where duplicate data may be loaded. For example, an applicator may file
his/her own report, when their employer also filed for them.
Invalid Values Reported:
Invalid data is data that was flagged for incompleteness or for an error (like those discussed in this section), and could not be corrected. Invalid data is either flagged with an audit code or the error condition is
logged in the database (see Data Validation). Generally, if the error is in a single field, such as a missing or unknown county code, we assign an audit code. Errors that involve more than one field
such as a county/zip code mismatch are logged. It is important to note that invalid data was found to be incomplete or incorrect by either the DEC or PSUR, but is retained because partial data can have
informational value. We caution those using the data to be aware of invalid data and account for it in their analyses.
Liquid Products Converted into Pounds of Active Ingredient:
Some applications of products with liquid formulations are routinely converted into pounds of active ingredient before they are reported to us (see Data Revisions).
Values Outside Reasonable Range:
Some applications and sales are reported with unreasonably large quantity values. This may be due to a misplaced decimal point, legibility issues on paper reports, reporting of the diluted product quantity, or
other reasons (see Data Validation).
See the Data Quality Assurance section for more information on how PSUR and the DEC address these data limitations.