(Beyond Pesticides, January 16, 2015) The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) announced Wednesday that it is implementing the country’s strictest limits on chloropicrin, a chemical injected into the soil where strawberries, raspberries, almonds, and other crops are grown. The soil fumigant has been linked to a litany of health effects, such as respiratory ailments, skin irritation, and headaches, due to exposure to drift in surrounding areas over recent years.
The new rules set up wider buffer zones of up to 100 feet around fields where the pesticide is applied. Growers will be restricted to fumigating 40 acres a day unless they use stronger tarps to prevent pesticide drift. Growers are also required to give the state 48 hours notice before fumigating and notify surrounding homes and businesses in Spanish and English.
Chloropicrin is used to control soil pathogens, nematodes, and certain weeds, and can be used alone or in combination with another fumigant, either 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D) or methyl bromide, both of which have also been shown to be toxic to human health and potent environmental contaminants. The new chloropicrin restrictions are timely; a 2011 report found that pesticide use rose in 2010 after a four-year decline. The pesticides with the greatest increases include 1,3-D, as well as chloropicrin. The report also found 1,015 cases of illness between 1992 and 2007 resulting from chloropicrin exposure alone. In total, more than 173 million pounds of pesticides were reported applied statewide, an increase of nearly 15 million pounds —or 9.5 percent— from 2009.
California produces about 88 percent of the nation’s strawberries, which account for 70 percent of all chloropicrin use. The pesticide is also used to protect raspberries, almonds, peppers, tomatoes and melons against a variety of pests and diseases.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a risk assessment of the chemical, which resulted in health-protective labels outlined on the labels, CDPR found that further controls are still needed in California. CDPR proposed the restrictions back in early 2013 after the completion of a 2010 health review that recommended reducing the risk of human exposure to the pesticide by limiting its airborne concentration.
“The right to farm does not include the right to harm,” said Brian Leahy, director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. “Part of the cost of doing business is putting protective measures in place that ensure that no one is getting hurt.”
A report last year by the California Department of Public Health found that chloropicrin is the agricultural pesticide of health concern that is applied most heavily within one-quarter of a mile of public schools. California schools recently began implementing new pesticide reporting and use requirements with the start of 2015. All schools and child day care centers statewide are now required to report their annual use of pesticides to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR).
While the new limits and restrictions on chloropicrin are a step in the right direction, farmworker and advocacy groups said more still needs to be done, as they fall short of scientists’ recommendations.
“The buffers are not large enough to protect residents, workers and schoolchildren,” said Anne Katten, who monitors pesticide and worker safety for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. “The long-term solution is to phase out the use of chloropicrin and other high-toxicity soil fumigants and move to alternative measures to control soil pests that are safer and more sustainable.”
This is a position strongly supported by Beyond Pesticides. Though this new rule is a move away from the use of toxic fumigants, it does not fully acknowledge the alternatives that already exist in organic production. The only way for consumers to prevent use of hazardous soil fumigants is to buy organically produced food. Beyond Pesticides advocates for the national conversion to organic systems planning, which moves chemicals off the market quickly and replaces them with green management practices. To learn more about organic agriculture please visit Beyond Pesticides organic agriculture page.
Source: The Los Angeles Times
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.