06/02/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Los Angeles, CA – The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has proposed registering methyl iodide, a toxic chemical used by few, as a pesticide suitable for use in the state, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. The known carcinogen is so toxic that chemists are extremely cautious when handling the substance.
The chemical is expected to be legal for growers by June 29.
Methyl iodide was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 for use as a fumigant as a replacement to methyl bromide. Experts wanted methyl bromide phased out because the fumes damaged the ozone layer.
While methyl iodide does not affect the ozone layer, it is used to induce cancer cells in laboratory animals, according to a representative from Californians for Pesticide Reform, a coalition of watchdog groups opposed to using potentially harmful chemicals.
When methyl iodide was approved, it was met with protests from legislators and scientists, including five Nobel laureates, who signed a letter opposing registration of the chemical.
Methyl iodide is currently licensed for use in 47 states. It is expensive and only used in small amounts in Florida and the Carolinas. It is mainly used on strawberries and occasionally on tomatoes and peppers. While no problems have been documented, few studies have actually been conducted, according to authorities.
Arysta LifeScience Corp. produces the pesticide. It is typically mixed into the dirt and covered with tarps in efforts to kill weed seeds, insects, worms, bacteria and fungus that infect plant roots.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Pesticide Regulation stated “Fumigants, including methyl iodide, sterilize soil prior to planting…It is injected into the soil. It is not applied onto plants or fruit.” The spokesperson further stated the chemical could be used safely as long as protective measures were followed.
Methyl iodide has been linked to thyroid disease and cancerous tumors that can affect the lungs and brain, according to a chemist at Pesticidee Action Network. The chemist, Susan Kegley, explained, “We are likely to see a greater incidence of thyroid disease with the use of this chemical.” She also said using the carcinogen as a fumigant was “ludicrous.”
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