California strawberry farmers may soon have a new pesticide to use on their fields. The state's Department of Pesticide Regulation is recommending approving use of the soil fumigant methyl iodide.
However, scientists say that methyl iodide is very toxic and can cause cancer, brain damage and miscarriages. An independent panel of scientists, invited to review the health risk data and safe exposure levels recommended for farmworkers and nearby communities, were shocked that the state is still moving toward approval and at higher levels of exposure than what the department's scientists proposed.
Methyl iodide received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007, accompanied by a similar uproar. Fifty-four eminent academic scientists and physicians wrote a letter to the agency, urging them to prevent the chemical's use.
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