Methyl iodide is a nasty chemical. It is a known neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor, and scientists in labs handle only small amounts using special protective equipment because it is so toxic. But do you know where else it is used? As a pesticide on strawberries and other food crops.
The battle against methyl iodide is being fought on several fronts. Last summer, Washington state banned the use of the pesticide. Unfortunately, the pendulum swung the other way in California, when despite more than 53,000 public comments submitted by CREDO activists and our allies, the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the chemical for agricultural use last December.
But the ultimate power to regulate pesticides lies with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has just decided to reconsider its approval of methyl iodide — approval that was granted during George W. Bush’s administration.
The new public comment period is our chance to finally ban this toxic chemical from being used as a pesticide on our food. But we must act quickly.
Methyl iodide has been subject to ongoing controversy in its approval process. The U.S. EPA approved methyl iodide for agricultural use in 2007, amid criticism from more than 50 prominent scientists1 that the process was hidden from public view and the research focus was too limited. In California, evidence has come to light that the DPR ignored advice from its own scientists. The head of that agency has since resigned — to work for the chemical company Clorox.
There is little to debate about methyl iodide’s toxicity. It is a known neurotoxin, disrupts thyroid function, damages developing fetuses, and has caused lung tumors in laboratory animals. Fumigating fields with the gas — even with the strictest regulations — would no doubt still result in unacceptable exposures to farm workers and surrounding populations.
Urging the E.P.A. to permanently suspend and cancel all uses of methyl iodide as a pesticide is the only surefire way to keep this poison away from workers and our food.
Tell the E.P.A.: Reverse your previous decision and prohibit the agricultural use of methyl iodide.