ACTION ALERT ON METHYL BROMIDE
October 18, 1993
Methyl bromide is one of the most widely used pesticides in
the world. It is a biocide that kills all living organisms
and is primarily used as a broadscale fumigant on soils,
agricultural commodities and structures. Besides posing
severe problems to workers' health, sustainable agriculture
practices and the natural environment, methyl bromide is also
a very powerful ozone depleting chemical. According to the
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), methyl bromide has
caused 5-10% of current worldwide ozone depletion. In 1992,
the UN's Montreal Protocol assigned methyl bromide an ozone
depleting potential of .7, on a scale of 0 to 1. The U.S. is
responsible for almost half (43%) of worldwide methyl bromide
use, much of it in the strawberry, fresh tomato and
structural pest fumigation industries.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled
to list methyl bromide as a Class I ozone-depleter this
November and start the process for a phase-out of the
chemical by the year 2000. But resistance is mounting in
conventional agriculture circles, especially in the
strawberry industry, which is heavily dependent on methyl
bromide. For example, a September 30th "Special Notice"
the California Strawberry Advisory Board is urging growers to
write to EPA, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and
others, calling for a delay in the EPA ruling and phaseout.
If EPA's rule is delayed, methyl bromide use will be extended
beyond 2000, causing more damage to the ozone layer, and
PLEASE SEND LETTERS to USDA, EPA and relevant members of
Congress to emphasize the need for an expedited phase-out of
methyl bromide and the availability of alternatives to this
dangerous chemical. Letters are welcome from international
activists as well, since ozone depletion is obviously a
world-wide problem. You can make the following points in
** A PHASE-OUT OF METHYL BROMIDE IS REQUIRED UNDER U.S. LAW.
Under the U.S. Clean Air Act, EPA must phase-out chemicals
with an ozone-depleting potential greater than 0.2. Methyl
bromide's ozone-depleting potential is 0.7. EPA is ignoring
the Clean Air Act by not immediately implementing a phase-out
schedule for methyl bromide.
** METHYL BROMIDE'S THREAT TO THE OZONE LAYER, PUBLIC HEALTH
AND THE ENVIRONMENT WARRANTS AN EVEN FASTER PHASE-OUT
SCHEDULE THAN EPA HAS PROPOSED.
Current scientific estimates predict that by the year 2000,
methyl bromide will be responsible for 15% of total ozone
depletion if, as expected emissions continue to increase.
Continued ozone loss will have wide reaching effects
including increased incidence of skin cancer, cataracts and
blindness, and possible suppression of the human immune
system. Methyl bromide is also highly toxic to workers and
other people who come into contact with it. From 1982 to
1990, in California alone, there were 15 reported deaths due
to methyl bromide exposure. We cannot afford to delay the
phase-out of this dangerous chemical.
** THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO MANY USES OF METHYL BROMIDE.
While there is no one single substitute for the many uses of
methyl bromide, there are numerous chemical and non-chemical
replacements. Some of these techniques include controlled
atmosphere for commodity fumigation, and soil solarization,
crop rotation and biological control for pests in soils.
Conventional farmers and the Strawberry Advisory Board's
claims that no alternatives exist are highly inaccurate.
EPA's proposal also allows methyl bromide use to continue for
7 years while alternatives are developed for situations where
they do not already exist.
PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:
The Honorable Mike Espy
U.S. Department of Agriculture
14th Street and Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
The Honorable Carol M. Browner
Environmental Protection Agency
401 "M" Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20460
The Honorable Leon Panetta
Office of the Director
Office of Management and Budget
Old Executive office Building
Washington, D.C. 20503
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
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