Kathy Brunetti, Senior Land and Water Analyst
California Department of Pesticide Regulation
September 13, 1999 (99-22)
DPR Drafting Regulations for Methyl Bromide, Chloropicrin
SACRAMENTO- Cal/EPA's Department of Pesticide Regulation is
developing statewide regulations on the agricultural use of methyl
bromide and chloropicrin, DPR Director Paul E. Helliker announced
today. In addition to those two fumigants, DPR is re-evaluating
other high-risk pesticides to determine if new regulations are
These mandatory rules would replace some of the
discretionary controls now set at the county level, said Helliker.
"Since 1979, the state has relied on county agricultural
commissioners to decide on use restrictions for many pesticides used
in their counties, and this process has usually worked well," he
said. "Because we have new data on risks and exposure to these
chemicals, it is time to re-examine our system to ensure that it
continues protecting public health and our environment."
Helliker emphasized that county agricultural commissioners
will maintain an integral role in regulating pesticides. "While
commissioners must retain some flexibility to respond to local
conditions, they also can benefit from statewide directives that are
unambiguous and consistent," he said. "The public and pesticide
users benefit too, because the rules are clear and apply statewide."
Transferring some permit restrictions into regulatory
requirements will meet two important DPR goals, said Helliker.
"First, it ensures the uniform enforcement of use practices we feel
are most critical to protecting health and the environment. Second,
our use of the formal regulatory process will allow the public to
have a voice in the outcome."
Helliker said that promulgating conditions for the use of
restricted chemicals -- such as buffer zones around fields fumigated
with methyl bromide -- are part of an overall reassessment of DPR
enforcement policies and procedures. "While I believe that California
has the nation's best pesticide regulatory program, we can always
improve," said Helliker. "Our rules must be clear, and they must be
carried out fairly and equitably."
California's system for regulating the most toxic pesticides
is the strictest in the nation. California is the only state that
requires users of these "restricted materials" to obtain both special
training and a site-specific permit from their county agricultural
commissioner. When considering whether to issue a permit,
commissioners must first take into account the presence of sensitive
sites in the area -- for example, schools, hospitals, and residential
neighborhoods. A commissioner may deny the permit, or may require
specific use practices designed to protect health and the
environment. DPR provides guidelines for specific use practices that
commissioners may require before granting a permit.
A number of factors motivated DPR to begin the rulemaking
process. Under the Birth Defects Prevention Act of 1984, DPR
required additional health effects studies to be performed on methyl
bromide and other pesticides. DPR recently completed a risk
characterization for methyl bromide that is currently undergoing
scientific peer review before release to the general public. DPR
risk assessments for about two dozen other pesticides are also in
progress. DPR will consider regulations to address any additional
safety measures indicated by these risk assessments.
In addition, DPR held a symposium on methyl bromide
monitoring techniques in late June. Participants made a number of
recommendations on changes in methodologies to improve the accuracy
of monitoring. Those recommendations -- which could also alter buffer
zones -- will be reflected in the regulations, Helliker said.
Finally, a recent San Francisco Superior Court decision
requiring DPR to adopt regulations on field fumigation use for methyl
bromide and chloropicrin will also be factored into the rulemaking
Helliker said that in the coming weeks, the Department will
discuss possible approaches to regulations for methyl bromide and
chloropicrin with representatives of activist groups and the
regulated community. These informal discussions will be followed by
the formal public notification and comment period required for all
proposed regulations, including a public hearing if one is requested.
One of six boards and departments within the California
Environmental Protection Agency, DPR regulates the use of pesticides
to protect human health and the environment.
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