P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service
Action Alert: Inadequate Methyl Bromide Regulations
March 4, 2000
In January 2000, California's Department of Pesticide Regulation
(DPR) issued draft regulations covering many uses of the toxic
pesticide methyl bromide. Unfortunately, the new regulations do not
protect the public from this deadly pesticide. To gather public
input, DPR will hold public hearings in March and will accept
written comments on the proposed regulations. Letters and attendance
at the hearings is urgently needed to convince state officials that
nearby residents, school children and farmworkers must be protected
from exposure to methyl bromide (MB).
In 1999, a coalition of environmental and health organizations won a
State Superior court law suit, charging that the State's previous
methyl bromide guidelines were not uniform, enforceable regulations.
The judge ordered Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to draft
new statewide regulations. After reviewing the proposed regulations,
environmental, health and farmworker organizations across the state
are extremely disappointed. Instead of protecting the public from
dangerous pesticides, the State has made no substantial changes in
the old guidelines. The new regulations fall far short of protecting
the health of farmworkers, children and the general public.
Methyl bromide is widely used in California to grow strawberries,
grapes and other crops. In 1998, nearly 14 million pounds of methyl
bromide was used in California, making it one of the largest methyl
bromide-using regions in the world. Methyl bromide is a potent nerve
toxin that is extremely dangerous to people and the environment. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies the chemical as a
Toxicity Category I toxin, and it has caused birth defects and
brain/nervous system damage to laboratory animals. Methyl bromide,
which depletes the Earth's protective ozone layer, is scheduled to
be phased out in industrialized countries in 2005.
Problems with the regulations
1. Schools: The new rules prohibit MB use near an "adjoining" school
within 36 hours of classes. But DPR's own monitoring has shown that
elevated levels of MB can remain in the air more than 48 hours after
fumigations. In addition, the regulations do not define how close
"adjoining" schools are to fumigated fields and do not take into
account the number of after-school and weekend activities on school
property. This despite recommendations from state scientists that
children, in particular, need a higher level of protection from
2. Buffer zones: The minimum distance that must be maintained
between fumigations and neighboring properties (such as residences
and schools) was decreased from 100 feet in the previous guidelines
to a 60 feet minimum in the new regulations. Even a 100 foot buffer
zone is not adequate to protect public health. In addition, the
regulations make no attempt to protect residents, children or
workers from long-term exposure to methyl bromide.
3. Public notification: DPR is proposing that methyl bromide users
notify sensitive sites (schools, homes, hospitals, etc) that are 300
feet from the buffer zone regarding upcoming MB use. This is
inadequate since MB can drift more than 300 feet from fumigation
sites, and notification is required only eight days before
fumigation, allowing residents inadequate time to challenge the
action. The proposal also requires notice only to property
operators, ignoring renters, school staff, students and others who
may be affected but do not own nearby property.
4. Worker safety: To protect farmworkers near fumigated fields, DPR
has proposed a worker buffer zone of 50 feet. Independent
scientists, however, have shown that this buffer zone should be at
least 190 feet to adequately protect workers from short-term peak
exposures of methyl bromide. The regulations do nothing to protect
those working or living near fumigated fields and those assisting
with fumigations against repeated or sub-chronic exposure.
1. Write a letter to the California Department of Pesticide
Regulation, protesting the Administration's failure to protect the
public from methyl bromide. (See sample letter on our Web site at
http://www.panna.org). Send your comments to:
Fred Bundock, Department of Pesticide Regulation
830 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814-3510
email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (916) 324-1452.
2. Attend California DPR's public hearings on methyl bromide in
Fresno, Watsonville, Ontario or Ventura. Visit our Web site for
times and locations.
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Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
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Phone: (415) 981-1771
Fax: (415) 981-1991
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