Environmental Protection

Groups Seek Soil Fumigant Pesticides Amendment

Farmworker unions, support groups, and worker advocacy organizations on June 18 sent a letter asking U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to stop the pesticide poisoning of farmworker communities and uphold the Obama administration's commitment to environmental justice.

The groups asked Jackson to amend a May decision that allows the continued use of hazardous soil fumigant pesticides. The chemicals, when used in chemically treated crop production such as tomatoes, carrots, strawberries and nuts, escape into the environment and drift into communities where the families and children of farmworkers live and play.

The letter, signed by 28 groups from across the country, says that the new fumigants policy "continues an outdated EPA approach to pesticide regulation that adopts unrealistic and unenforceable standards as risk mitigation measures, in an age of safer, greener approaches to agricultural pest management."

EPA announced its decision May 27 to allow continued use of toxic soil fumigants with modified safety measures.

Pesticides affected by the decision include chloropicrin, dazomet, metam sodium/potassium (including methyl isothiocyanate or MITC), methyl bromide. Fumigants are associated with a range of acute respiratory and central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, tremors and incoordination, muscle weakness, and skin irritation. Long-term effects can include brain damage and seizures.

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