A mountain of public comments submitted to state regulators condemned a new and highly toxic pesticide, methyl iodide, as too great a risk to farm workers and surrounding communities to be used on strawberry fields.
The minority of positive comments noted the chemical’s advantages: it evaporates quickly and doesn’t damage the ozone layer.
“We are quite confident that the exposure concerns are related both application and assuring ourselves that workers and bystanders stay out of the applied field for a two-week period,” said Mary Ann Warmerdam of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
The agency is reviewing whether requiring special training, protective clothing and respirators, and periodic medical exams for farm workers that apply methyl iodide are sufficient to protect against what Warmerdam described as a “highly toxic” material.
Although fields where the chemical is used would be covered with tarps, Paul Towers of the advocacy group Pesticide Watch believes that’s inadequate.
“The real concerns here are that this chemical is prone to drift and can travel, who knows, maybe as far as a few miles and that can affect a number of people across California.”
Regulators logged more than 53,000 individual comments during the two-month public comment period that closed this week.