(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2007) On May 26, a Montreal-bound train derailed near Lake Champlain, New York. Twelve of 33 cars jumped the tracks, including one carrying methylene chloride, a paint remover, and methyl bromide, a fumigant that has been banned in much of the world under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The county HazMat response team arrived two hours after the accident, putting out a small fire on the locomotive and determining within another two hours that the chemical tanks were unharmed, ending the threat of a chemical spill.
Essex County Emergency Services Deputy Director Don Jaquish noted that the tankers were around ten percent full when they derailed, calling the scene one of “moderate risk,” although “for people working on the train, it could be a severe risk.”
While this incident fortunately did not result in compromise of human health or the environment, the continued use of methyl bromide on fruits and vegetables across the country does compromise both public health and the environment by exposing many to a chemical that is carcinogenic, according to California’s Proposition 65. Methyl bromide is an ozone-depleting chemical that was supposed to be phased out in industrialized countries by 2005, according to the Montreal Protocol, which President Reagan signed in 1987. For the past several years, the Bush administration has requested exemptions from the phase-out for a variety of agricultural uses. The European Union has already banned methyl bromide and proven the efficacy of a number of alternative products, evidence the United States has ignored while manufacturing more of the chemical and building large stockpiles.
Fortunately, recent reports show a steady decrease in the U.S.’s methyl bromide inventory. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency released data from 2006, showing a reduction of over 3,000 metric tons held by U.S. companies since 2005, down to a total of 7,671 metric tons held by 35 companies. Further reduction, however, is needed before the U.S. can successfully fulfill its commitment to the Montreal Protocol.
TAKE ACTION: Let the Bush Administration know that you think it should NOT delay the phase-out of methyl bromide and promote the rollback of public health and environmental protection under the Montreal Protocol. Contact EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and send an email to President Bush. Also let your elected members of Congress know how you feel. Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative.