12,000 People Tell EPA: Phase Out Fumigants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 01, 2007
Contact: Media Director, Pesticide Action Network North America, 415-981-1771, media@panna.org

Acutely toxic pesticides hurt farm workers, rural residents

Over 12,000 advocates for the public health of farm workers and rural residents sent a petition to EPA director Stephen Johnson today demanding a phase-out of toxic fumigant pesticides being reviewed in the Fumigant Cluster Assessment (FCA) and calling for implementation of strict controls to protect communities and workers in the interim period. The chemicals being evaluated for re-registration included methyl bromide, which is an ozone depletor slated for international phase-out under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty. Also being reviewed are Telone, metam sodium, dazomet, and chloropicrin.

Recent drift incidents highlight the dangers of community exposure to drift of these chemicals when they are applied in agricultural fields. On September 26, in Yerington, Nevada, 121 people were treated from exposure to chloropicrin drift. On October 23, dozens of households in a Salinas, CA neighborhood were exposed in a drift incident involving methyl bromide and chloropicrin. After meeting with some of the residents in the area, Pesticide Action Network Staff Scientist Brian Hill said, “We were alarmed to discover some households that were more seriously exposed than earlier accounts had indicated. Some people remained sick four days after the incident.” Fumigant poisonings occur regularly, due to frequent and unpredictable calms and temperature inversions, the fact that fumigant pesticides are highly prone to drift, and the fact that homes, businesses and other farms often abut the fields being fumigated. Dr. Hill says that “Without dramatically larger buffer zones than EPA is currently considering, fumigation will remain a high stakes game of roulette.”

“We’ve got to support farmers so they can transition away from these toxic chemicals,” said Dr. Susan Kegley, Pesticide Action Network Senior Scientist, “and actively discourage replacing these toxic chemicals with others that are equally toxic.” On October 5, EPA approved use of the highly carcinogenic fumigant methyl iodide, marketed as a replacement for methyl bromide despite the objection of dozens of acclaimed scientists nationwide.

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Available for interviews

  • Dr. Brian Hill, Science Department Director, Pesticide Action Network North America
    510-289-4329, bhill@panna.org
  • Dr. Susan Kegley, Senior Scientist, Pesticide Action Network North America
    510-759-9397, skegley@panna.org
  • Anne Katten, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
    916-446-7904 x19, akatten@cal.net

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