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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'methyl bromide' Category


New Issues Arise Over Methyl Iodide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, September 7, 2011) California’s approval of the dangerous and controversial agricultural chemical, methyl iodide, suffered serious questions with the release of new documents showing the fumigant’s registration process was flawed. The documents, which were made public as part of a lawsuit challenging the state’s approval of the chemical, show the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) cut and pasted calculations from different risk assessments in order to come up with a less stringent set of restrictions on the chemical’s use. Earlier this year, several environmental groups sued the State of California for approving the agricultural use of methyl iodide. Methyl iodide is known to cause miscarriages, thyroid dysfunction, and cancer, and is applied to crops like strawberries and peppers. It was approved by California state pesticide regulators in December as an alternative to methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting chemical being phased out under international treaty. Environmental advocacy groups and other opponents of methyl iodide use in the state have released documents detailing dissension in the ranks of DPR over the risk assessment of methyl iodide and its subsequent approval. Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law group, sued DPR in an attempt to reverse the state’s approval of the chemical. The […]



New Study Links Pesticide Exposure to Prostate Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, August 30, 2011) A new study finds that older men living in California’s Central Valley are more likely to develop prostate cancer if they were exposed to certain agricultural pesticides than those who were not exposed. The study examines exposure via drift rather than occupational exposure, although similar results have been noted in farmworker populations. Exposure to methyl bromide or various organochlorine pesticides increased the risk of cancer by about one and a half times. The study, “Prostate cancer and ambient pesticide exposure in agriculturally intensive areas in California,” was published in the June 2011 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. The researchers from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine recruited 173 men between the ages of 60 to 74 from 670 identified by the California Cancer Registry as being diagnosed with prostate cancer between August 2005 and July 2006 in California’s Central Valley. The authors used calendars and questionnaires to determine where they lived and worked between 1974 and 1999, and compared this to historical data of the corresponding area’s agricultural pesticide use from state pesticide use reports and land use records. In comparison with unexposed persons, increased risks of prostate cancer were […]



EPA Concludes California Discriminated Against Latino Children in Agreement

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Thursday that it has entered into an agreement with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) to resolve a civil rights complaint from 1999 which alleged that the department’s renewal of the toxic fumigant methyl bromide in 1999 discriminated against Latino school children whose schools are located near agriculture fields. Per the agreement, CDPR has agreed to expand on-going monitoring of methyl bromide air concentrations by adding a monitor at or near one of the Watsonville, CA area schools named in the original complaint. The purpose of the additional monitor is to confirm that there will be no recurrence of earlier conditions. CDPR will share the monitoring results with EPA and the public and will also increase its community outreach and education efforts to schools that are in high methyl bromide usage areas.EPA says that this is a part of a “backlog” of more than 30 unresolved complaints. The complaint was filed in 1999 under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , which prohibits intentional discrimination and discriminatory effects on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance. […]



Will Sulfuryl Fluoride Phase-Out Shift Market Away from Toxic Fumigants?

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2011) Following the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of Dow AgroSciences’ request for an administrative hearing to keep sulfuryl fluoride on the market, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sent a letter to the agency on June 29, 2011 opposing EPA’s phase-out of the toxic fumigant pesticide, which is marketed as a substitute for the outdated, ozone-depleting methyl bromide. According to its letter, the environmental group believes that the “proposed action will imperil EPA’s ability to complete the long-overdue phase-out of methyl bromide, leading to prolonged and increased depletion of the ozone layer, higher levels of ultraviolet radiation, and higher risks of cancer, cataracts, and immunological disorders.” Under pressure from a 2006 petition submitted by Fluoride Action Network (FAN), Beyond Pesticides, and Environmental Working Group (EWG), EPA announced its plan to cancel all allowable pesticide residue levels (tolerances) for sulfuryl fluoride over three years, effectively banning its use in January 2014. The agency found that when residues on food products are combined with fluoridated drinking water and toothpaste, aggregate exposure levels are too high. Beyond Pesticides has repeatedly pointed to non-toxic practices that have eliminated the need for either hazardous fumigant throughout the process. Manufactured by […]



Organic Strawberry Farming Leads to Healthier Berries and Soils

(Beyond Pesticides, September 7, 2010) A new study, entitled Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems, shows organic strawberry farming results in higher quality fruit and healthier soils. A growing number of consumers are choosing organic foods, believing them to be healthier for themselves and the environment. While most environmentalists agree that organic agriculture is generally more sustainable than conventional, nutritionists who believe organic foods to be more nutritious are currently in the minority. A detailed comparison of organic and conventional strawberry farms is the first study to examine both the soil health and the nutrient content of the fruit produced. Researchers found organically produced strawberries, while slightly smaller than conventional have higher antioxidant activity, longer shelf life, and fared better in taste tests. Soils on the organic farms are also found to be healthier with higher organic matter concentration, and greater microbial biodiversity. California strawberries make up 25% of total production worldwide and 87% of U.S. production. Conventional strawberry production is notoriously dangerous for farm worker health and the environment. After phasing out the ozone depleting fumigant methyl bromide, the California government is currently considering approval of methyl iodide a chemical so carcinogenic it is actually […]



California’s Pesticide Use Declined, Yet Millions of Pounds of Toxic Pesticides Continue

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2010) Pesticide use declined in California for a third consecutive year in 2008, according to the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). Approximately 162 million pounds of reported pesticides were applied statewide, a decrease of nearly 10 million pounds – or 6 percent – from 2007. Pesticide use in production agriculture fell by 9.6 million pounds and in most other categories as well, including structural pest control and landscape maintenance. Reports are mandatory for agricultural and pest control business applications, while most home, industrial and institutional uses are exempt. DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam emphasized that pesticide use varies from year to year depending on a number of factors, including weather, pest problems, economics and types of crops planted. Increases and decreases in pesticide use from one year to the next or in the span of a few years do not necessarily indicate a general trend. “California experienced another dry winter and spring in 2008, which helps explain why fungicides showed the greatest decrease in use by both pounds and acres treated,” Ms. Warmerdam said. “Herbicide use also fell by pounds and acres treated, indicating fewer weeds.” Sulfur was again the most highly used pesticide in 2008 […]



Farmworker Groups Ask EPA Administrator to Uphold Environmental Justice for Farmworker Communities

(Beyond Pesticides, June 19, 2009) Farmworker unions, support groups, and worker advocacy organizations today asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to stop the pesticide poisoning of farmworker communities and uphold the Obama administration’s commitment to environmental justice. Citing a long EPA history of “inhumane neglect of toxic pesticide effects on farmworker community health,” the groups asked the Administrator to amend a recent May 2009 decision that allows the continued use of hazardous soil fumigant pesticides. The chemicals when used in chemically treated crop production, such as tomatoes, carrots, strawberries and nuts, escape into the environment and drift into communities where the families and children of farmworkers live and play. The letter, signed by 28 groups from across the country, says that the new fumigants policy “continues an outdated EPA approach to pesticide regulation that adopts unrealistic and unenforceable standards as risk mitigation measures, in an age of safer, greener approaches to agricultural pest management.” EPA announced its decision May 27, 2009 to allow continued use of toxic soil fumigants with modified safety measures, falling far short of safety advocate efforts to adopt more stringent use restrictions and chemical bans. The rule was first proposed in July 2008, […]



Workers and Communities Still Unprotected by EPA Fumigant Rule, Advocates Say

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2008) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced May 27, 2009 modified safety measures for soil fumigant pesticides, falling short of safety advocate efforts to adopt more stringent use restrictions and chemical bans. The new regulations follow a July 10, 2008 proposed rule, which resulted from three years of deliberation. Safety advocates said last July that while substantially better than the past, the proposed regulation fell short in protecting people, workers and the environment and from that perspective this weeks regulation is a disappointment. Advocates believe that the country can do better to phase out uses of highly hazardous chemicals that have devastating impact on exposed workers and communities in which they are used, and advance green technologies and organic practices. Fumigants, which are among the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture, are gases or liquids that are injected or dripped into the soil to sterilize a field before planting. Even with plastic tarps on the soil, fumigants escape from the soil and drift through the air into schools, homes, parks and playgrounds. Strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, carrots and potatoes are some of the major crops for which fumigant use is high. The agency says these measures will […]



California Allows More Emissions From Fumigants

(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2009) The California Department of Pesticide Regulation this week finalized looser pesticide rules that will allow more emissions from soil fumigant pesticides. Environmental activists are alarmed that this new ruling will only serve to slow efforts to clean the smoggy air in California’s Central Valley. This regulatory action revises the total pesticide emission benchmarks in the Sacramento Metro, San Joaquin Valley, South Coast, Southeast Desert, and Ventura areas. The ruling is a victory for chemical-intensive farmers, who fear that stricter limits would force some growers to stop using pesticides. Pesticides, especially soil fumigants, which are injected into soil to kill pests by releasing toxic gases, contribute to about 6% of the smog problem in the Valley, according to state figures. According to the state’s Department of Pesticides Regulation, the looser limit will still “meet our obligation to reduce pesticide emissions, but do so in a way that avoids placing an unreasonable or disproportionate burden on fumigant pesticide users.” For the San Joaquin Valley for example, the rule sets the emissions limit at 18.1 tons per day, 2.1 tons higher than what activists wanted. The regulations cover the prime growing season of May 1 though October 31 […]



Farmworkers Face Highest Risk of Pesticide Poisonings, EPA Worker Protection Standards Failing

(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2008) A new study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds the pesticide poisoning incidence rate among U.S. agricultural workers is thirty-nine times higher than the incidence rate found in all other industries combined. The study, “Acute Pesticide Poisoning Among Agricultural Workers in the United Sates, 1998-2005,” published in the December issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, is believed to be the first detailed multi-state assessment of acute pesticide poisonings among agricultural workers. From 1998 to 2005, a total of 3,271 cases of acute occupational pesticide-related illness/injury among agricultural workers were identified in ten states. According to EPA, the Worker Protection Standards are designed to reduce the risk of injury or illness to agricultural field workers resulting from exposure to pesticides. Although the WPS was expanded in 1995 and in 2005 EPA developed a new WPS How to Comply (HTC) Manual, the NIOSH findings indicate that agricultural workers continue to have an elevated risk for acute pesticide poisoning. Furthermore, female agricultural workers experienced nearly twice the risk of pesticide poisoning of male agricultural workers. The most common factors that contributed to pesticide exposure included off-target drift, early reentry into […]



Conference Highlights Natural Alternatives to Toxic Soil Fumigation

(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2008) The Third International Biofumigation Symposium took place in Australia July 21-25, 2008, highlighting new scientific advancements in the age old practice of planting crops in the brassica family (radish, mustard, etc.) prior to growing other crops to control diseases, insects, and weeds. Research in this area reveals that in many cases, “biofumigation,” as it is called, provides disease and pest control comparable to that of pesticides commonly used as soil fumigants, and does not have the negative health and environmental effects associated with these fumigants. Growing interest in biofumigation is spurred by the international phase-out of the toxic soil fumigant methyl bromide (for its role in ozone depletion) under the Montreal Protocol. Unfortunately, even though the environmental and health risks of methyl bromide and other soil fumigants have been documented, and non-toxic alternatives such as biofumigation exist, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has essentially ignored the Montreal Protocol and continued to allow the use of methyl bromide under “exemptions.” In the most recent EPA action on the subject, the agency released proposed rules and risk mitigation measures for five toxic soil fumigants on July 10, 2008. These rules fall short of the hopes of […]



EPA Fumigant Rules Leave Communities and Workers At Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2008) After three years of deliberation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules for five highly toxic fumigant pesticides on July 10, 2008. Environmental health, community and farmworker groups say the rules, while substantially better than the past, still fall short of protecting people, workers and the environment. The rules will be published in the Federal Register on July 17, 2008.The fumigant review, mandated by the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, was conducted as a combined evaluation of five commonly used fumigants, called the “Fumigant Cluster Assessment.” The five fumigants included in the assessment are methyl bromide, metam sodium, metam potassium, dazomet, and chloropicrin. Methyl bromide was slated for phaseout by January 2005 under the Montreal Protocol because it is a potent ozone depletor, but the Bush Administration has sought annual “critical use exemptions,” keeping it on the market. Fumigants, which are among the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture, are gases or liquids that are injected or dripped into the soil to sterilize a field before planting. Even with plastic tarps on the soil, fumigants escape from the soil and drift through the air into schools, homes, parks and playgrounds. Strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, […]



CA Reports Overall Pesticide Use Down, Use on Strawberries Up

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2007) On November 29, 2007, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) reported 2006 pesticide use statistics that showed continued progress toward less pesticide use statewide. However, strawberry growers increased their reliance the highly toxic, ozone depleting fumigant methyl bromide. Overall statewide pesticide use declined by nearly six million pounds from 2005 to 2006 (from 195.3 million to 189.6 million). While use increased in landscape maintenance, public health and other categories, production agriculture saw a 10 million pound drop. Use of many high-toxicity chemicals, including carcinogens, neurotoxic pesticides and chemicals linked to reproductive effects dropped for the third consecutive year. “DPR works hard to promote least-toxic pest management, and our efforts are paying off,” said DPR director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. “At the same time, we will continue to strive for long-term success in pest management, and we have more work to do.” On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times reports that state strawberry growers, primarily around Oxnard and in the Salinas and Watsonville areas, applied fumigants to 5,000 more acres, using 132 more tons of the chemicals than in the previous year. That is a 9% increase in acreage treated and a 3% increase in tonnage. […]



EPA Delays Approval of Methyl Iodide

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2007) On September 28, 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delayed approval of the pesticide methyl iodide, a highly toxic replacement chemical for the ozone-depleting methyl bromide (also called iodomethane), after more than 50 prominent scientists objected that the chemical was too dangerous. The decision surprised environmentalists who assumed the pesticide would most likely be registered despite opposition. According to EPA, it now “will address recent questions prompted by the pending registration of iodomethane.” On September 24, 2007, scientists across the country — including six Nobel prize winners, alarmed by the prospect of registering methyl iodide as a pesticide, issued a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson urging the Agency not to sanction the broad use of methyl iodide now or at any time. “The gratifying thing is that EPA has been responsive to people who are really concerned about this,” Robert Bergman, a University of California at Berkeley professor who organized the scientists’ letter, told the Associated Press. The letter criticized EPA’s scientific analysis, calling for an independent scientific review of the agency’s assessment. Methyl iodide and methyl bromide are injected into the soil at rates of 100-400 pounds per acre to kill soil-borne pests. […]



Train Carrying Methyl Bromide Derails in New York

(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 […]