Daily News Archive
From December 01, 2005                                                                                                           

Banned Pesticide Still Being Used In U.S. Harvests
(Beyond Pesticides, December 1, 2005)
Methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide that was supposed to be phased out of use by 2005, is still being used on many U.S. harvests including strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and Christmas trees. According to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, use of methyl bromide is to cease by 2005 except in the most critical circumstances. The Bush administration has exempted the U.S. from the original deadline by seeking and winning treaty exemptions. The administration is making plans to ensure that methyl bromide remains readily available at least through 2008.

Exemption from the Montreal Protocol comes at a high cost. Methyl bromide, a fumigant that is injected into the soil and then trapped under plastic to avoid dissipation, can cause convulsions, coma, and neuromuscular and cognitive problems. In some cases exposure to methyl bromide can be fatal.

Some farmworkers report finding dead animals, such as dogs, deer, and birds, when removing the plastic sheets after fumigation. They also report experiencing headaches, vomiting, and eye irritation.

Depletion of the ozone layer is another serious consequence of methyl bromide use. It is this factor that caused methyl bromide to be included in the Montreal Protocol. There are certain stipulations that allow for exemption from the phaseout ordered by the protocol. One such cause for exemption is if a country needs to use methyl bromide in order to prevent “market disruption”. These are the grounds on which the current administration is asking for exemption. This exemption leaves the United States 37 percent away from the phaseout amount required by 2005. Additionally, this year’s total of methyl bromide used is higher than it was two years ago, supporting many people’s worries that the U.S. is not only trying to exempt themselves, but actually going backwards in progress.

The heavy agricultural use of methyl bromide not only poses problems to those working on the farms, but also to those in the vicinity of the farms. Of major concern are schools. Experts say that methyl bromide can seep into the air; causing even more worry about pesticide drift, particularly under windy conditions.

TAKE ACTION: Let the Bush Administration know that you think it should NOT delay the phase-out of methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol. Send an email to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and to [email protected] Also let your elected members of Congress know how you feel. Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative.