Wednesday, June 25, 1997

California Study Admits Methyl Bromide Safety Standard Inadequate

View and Download the report here: California Study Admits Methyl Bromide Safety Standard Inadequate

Since March 1996, when the California Legislature moved to overturn the state ban on methyl bromide, the issue of unsafe levels of the pesticide drifting from agricultural fields into nearby communities has grown from a local concern to a statewide controversy. In concert with community groups from across the state, Environmental Working Group has released a series of reports detailing the results of EWG air monitoring and documenting the flaws in methyl bromide safety standards set by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. These reports have revealed that millions of pounds of methyl bromide are used near schools and daycare centers; that methyl bromide levels exceeding DPR's safety standards are drifting into suburban neighborhoods; and that the health standards issued by DPR are inherently flawed because they are based on faulty assumptions, unsound science and political expediency. (EWG 1996, EWG 1996b, EWG 1997).

To every issue raised by our reports, community protests, criticism from public health scientists or inquiries from elected officials, DPR's response has been denial. The agency has repeatedly defended its methyl bromide standards as the toughest in the world, asserted that the chemical is safe when applied according to current regulations and dismissed findings of methyl bromide drift as junk science. But even as DPR has denied that its standards are inadequate, the agency has changed key provisions of its policies governing agricultural use of methyl bromide. Taken together, these actions represent a systematic retreat by DPR and an underlying admission that its safety standards do not adequately protect citizens from exposure to hazardous levels of methyl bromide.

On July 18, DPR released a methyl bromide monitoring study conducted last winter. (DPR 1997). The agency failed to make the study public for five months after the last sample was taken, and then attempted to downplay it by calling the findings "ambiguous" (DPR 1997b). In fact, the findings are clear: At four of six locations, and for three of the four application methods examined, airborne levels of methyl bromide exceeded current safety standards.

View and Download the report here: California Study Admits Methyl Bromide Safety Standard Inadequate

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