| Added On August 30, 2011
Several environmental groups across California filed lawsuits earlier this year in response to the legislature’s approval of the use of methyl iodide- a powerful pesticide known to cause a host of health problems and birth defects. Opponents of the chemical took to the streets this week and the presence of many were felt on the steps of the state capitol building in Sacramento as protesters urged the governor to reconsider the approval. Luckily, newly-released scientific testing documents reveal information about the inadequate testing and weak restrictions which should urge lawmakers to re-investigate this powerful chemical threatening the health and welfare of Californians and Americans nationwide.
Methyl iodide is a chemical compound used primarily in fruit production as a pesticide. It is linked to medical complications including miscarriages, thyroid malfunction and cancer. In addition to the medical hazards presented by direct ingestion of the toxin, many are upset about the reduced buffer zones around fruit and vegetable fields while has lead to the transfer of methyl iodide onto school playgrounds and and into neighborhoods. Other states like New York and Washington have refused to allow the use of methyl iodide despite approval by the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmentally-conscious California hopes to be the next state to escape the effects of this hazardous and life-threatening chemical.
With respect to the approval of methyl iodide, tempers have flared on both sides of the argument. Central to the issue is California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation which oversees the use of pesticides within California’s agricultural sector. Some have criticized the DPR for “hand-picking” data to use in making its decision to allow the use of methyl iodide while ignoring other significant data contradicting its safety.
With respect to buffer zones, several scientists contend that miles-wide buffer zones are necessary to protect surrounding homes and businesses from exposure to methyl iodide. DPR did acknowledge that this safety precaution would be warranted but still allowed for reduced buffer zones in order to reduce hardship on the manufacturer of methyl iodide. As a result, homes and schools in some areas are within 25 feet of farm fields where this pesticide is released.
Other criticisms include the irreverence with which DPR regards the effect of methyl iodide on infants, children and pregnant women. Reports reveal that the chemical was never tested for its potential for birth defects. Scientists advising the DPR suggested that approval of the pesticide should be restricted to two parts-per-million to reduce the risk of birth defects. However, California and the EPA approved use at ten parts-per-million.