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From February 1, 2006                                                                                                        

Stop Methyl Iodide: Don't let EPA register new carcinogenic pesticide
(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2006) Methyl iodide is a carcinogenic chemical that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now evaluating for registration as a replacement for the fumigant ozone-depleting methyl bromide, which is to be phased out under international treaty. Send comments to EPA before February 6, 2006 to stop methyl iodide from being registered as a new pesticide. Submit comments to EPA through Pesticide Action Network North America’s (PANNA) action alert or United Farm Workers’ (UFW) action alert.

The Montreal Protocol, a 1992 commitment by the world's nations that includes the phase out methyl bromide - one of the five deadly pesticides targeted by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers - gave hope that farmworkers and others would finally stop being put at risk by this deadly pesticide. Unfortunately, EPA is not only backpedaling on this, but is also facilitating the chemical industry and agribusiness efforts to introduce methyl iodide, a fumigant that may be even more hazardous to human health than methyl bromide.

Methyl iodide and methyl bromide are highly volatile fumigant pesticides that are injected into the soil at rates of 100-400 pounds per acre to kill soil-borne pests. Because of the high application rates and gaseous nature of these chemicals, they drift away from the application site to poison neighbors and farmworkers. Fumigant-intensive crops include tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, tobacco, melons, potatoes and other root crops.

The state of California lists methyl iodide as a carcinogen under Proposition 65. EPA found that methyl iodide caused thyroid tumors--and introduced a previously unheard of cancer ranking of "Not likely to be carcinogenic to humans at doses that do not alter rat thyroid hormone homeostasis." The EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee used only a single study to come to this conclusion—in which 62-66% of the rats in both the control and the high dose group died during the experiment. In addition to thyroid tumors, the study showed significant changes in thyroid hormone levels, which are closely tied to metabolic disorders. Other animal studies evaluated by EPA also indicated that methyl iodide causes respiratory tract lesions, neurological effects, and miscarriages.

“This chemical represents the antithesis of modern biologically based farming," remarked PANNA senior scientist Susan Kegley, Ph.D. "We know so much more now about soil pests, plant pathology and plant breeding than we did when fumigants were first introduced in the 1920s. EPA should be helping farmers move into the future by expanding the use of new integrated pest management techniques, not by replacing one hazardous chemical with another." Dr. Kegley points out that fumigation is an inherently risky technology that endangers farmworkers, contaminates groundwater, and is a drift hazard to schools and communities surrounding the fields.

EPA is taking public comments on the registration of methyl iodide through February 6, 2006, although it says it will extend the deadline. PANNA, UFW and Beyond Pesticides are requesting the public join in expressing opposition to the registration. Please take the time to tell EPA to not allow the registration of methyl iodide for agricultural use. Submit comments to EPA through Pesticide Action Network North America’s (PANNA) action alert or United Farm Workers’ (UFW) action alert.