We know no government agency is impervious to mistakes (or external "pressures"), but this is getting ridiculous: the EPA once again decided to override the concerns of a large body of scientists, including 5 chemistry Nobel laureates, by approving the use of methyl iodide, a highly toxic pesticide, this past Friday. Designed mainly to be used in strawberry fields, methyl iodide is a neurotoxin and potent carcinogen that has been found to cause several debilitating conditions in lab animals, including neurological damage and miscarriages.
Over 50 scientists sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson last month, warning that "pregnant women and the fetus, children, the elderly, farmworkers and other people living near application sites would be at serious risk." Despite their protests, EPA officials deemed the pesticide safe for use and only imposed some minor restrictions to protect farmworkers and their neighbors. "It is potentially really toxic, and it's certainly very reactive. From what we know about its chemistry, we know this stuff reacts with DNA. It mutates it. So it's prudent to be as careful as you can with it," said UC Berkeley's Robert Bergman, who spearheaded the efforts to prevent its approval.Meant as a replacement for methyl bromide, a soil fumigant that was barred after scientists discovered that it harmed the planet's ozone layer, the chemical will be manufactured by Arysta LifeScience Corp. (under the catchy name "Midas") - whose former chief executive is now the EPA's chief administrator for the northwest region - for use on fields growing tomatoes, peppers, trees and strawberries (amongst others).
Though the agency had originally dropped its plans to approve the potent pesticide following objections from a coalition of state officials, worker and environmental groups this past year, it decided to follow through with a 1-year approval after reviewing some more data. Given the EPA's past record, we'd say the safe money is on the scientists.
See also: ::EPA To Rebuild Supreme Court Building To Green Standards, ::EPA Petitioned to Limited CO2 Emissions from Ships, ::EPA Bans Most Toxic Chemical Ever Released into World's Oceans
Image courtesy of titancia via flickr