EPA Public Meeting: Fumigant Pesticide

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, Pesticide Action Network North America 415 981-1771 ext 355

EPA Public Meeting: Fumigant Pesticides
Community members worried about safety of
the proposed restrictions are invited to give input

June 6, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Harborside Event Center
1375 Monroe Street, Ft. Myers, FL 33901

Officials from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be meeting with people concerned about the use of fumigant pesticides. The EPA is nearing completion of their Fumigant Cluster Assessment (FCA), reviewing methyl bromide, metam sodium, dazomet, 1,3-dichloropropene (Telone) and chloropicrin. Public meetings are providing an opportunity for public comment before the EPA issues its plans to revise fumigant use restrictions.

Fumigant pesticides are widely used, extremely dangerous chemicals used to sterilize soil before planting. This class of pesticides constitutes about 10% of all pesticides used in the United States (by weight). Chronic effects linked to fumigant exposure include increased incidence of some cancers, asthma and other respiratory problems, neurological deficiencies, and, in animal studies, birth defects. EPA is soliciting input on the value and feasibility of buffer zones around fumigated fields, more restrictive application methods, practicality of worker protections, and fumigant administration (a category that includes record-keeping, posting, and community notification).

Risks from fumigants are unpredictable. In October of 2005, a chloropicrin cloud drifted over one-quarter of a mile from a strawberry field over a neighborhood in Salinas, California, and sickened over sixty people, including emergency personnel who came to rescue them. Some residents have since reported chronic respiratory problems and other health concerns.

The state of California has just announced it would enact some of the toughest regulation in the nation on fumigant pesticides due to their contribution to harming public health as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a major component in smog over agricultural areas. Organic farmers and others have demonstrated that alternatives to fumigants are practical and profitable. Many community groups, including farmworkers and residents of rural areas are calling for buffer zones, notification rules, and ultimately a phase-out of fumigants and support for farmers transitioning to a more sustainable process of soil management. Growers that currently rely on fumigants to profitably and predictably produce their crops will be opposing most if not all of these measures.

Available for interviews:

Jeannie Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida (407) 694-8641, Farmworkerassoc@aol.com
Brian R Hill, PhD, Director, Science Department, Pesticide Action Network North America (510) 289-4329, bhill@panna.org
Chela Vasquez, Fumigant Campaign Director, Pesticide Action Network North America 415 981-1771. chela@panna.org