Methyl iodide: it's listed as a human carcinogen, is considered a neurotoxin and has been linked to late-term miscarriages. Now the state of California is poised to let farmers spray it on the state's strawberry fields - fields that provide over 85% of the US crop.
California's regulators are all but ignoring their scientific advisors by proposing a "safe" level of exposure (for those doing the spraying) at a rate 120 times higher than that recommended by their own scientists and an outside independent panel.
What's so bad about methyl iodide?
This toxic chemical, that gets extra precaution and a fume hood when handled in a lab, has been linked to thyroid disease, neurological damage, lung tumors and fetal harm. Both California state scientists and an outside review panel determined that when widely used as a pesticide, methyl iodide would have "a significant adverse impact on public health."
Too much at stake
But the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) appears to be putting the profits of strawberry growers and pesticide manufacturers above the interests of public health and is poised to allow farmers to sterilize their soil with methyl iodide, risking:
- The health of Californians living and working near any field where the pesticide is sprayed. DPR claims that safety measures such as buffer zones and tarps will prevent a dangerous level of human exposure, but enforcement of these safety measures is often lax.
- The health of farm workers who will face the highest exposure to the toxic poison. While DPR insists that the use of respirators and other precautions will make it safe, experience has shown that real life application of these measures often falls short.
- California's air & water quality. Methyl iodide is a particularly volatile chemical, and when released into the environment, there's a risk of contamination of air and groundwater.
There is still time for California's regulators to change their mind. Tell the California Department of Pesticide Regulation that use of methyl iodide should not be permitted in California. Anyone (even non-Californians) can email them a comment through June 29th. Below we've given you some sample text - feel free to add, or send as is today!
I am concerned about the pending approval of methyl iodide for use as a fumigant on California fields. Agricultural spraying of this poisonous chemical, linked to cancer, thyroid damage and fetal loss, threatens farm workers, Californians living in agricultural areas, and the state's water & air quality. I urge the DPR to put the health of the state's citizens & environment first and withdraw its recommendation to approve the use of methyl iodide.
Thanks to .JenniferLeigh. & flickr for the photo