Monterey County, one of the largest agriculture producers in California, joined Santa Cruz County in urging California Gov. Jerry Brown to re-examine the use of methyl iodide in agriculture.
The strawberry fumigant has been found toxic to humans because of its carcinogenic effects. Methyl iodide was originally approved for use in 2010 but the decision was highly controversial because the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s own scientists found it harmful, according to Agro-Net.
Its use was specifically targeted toward agricultural areas and not intended for residential areas, but harm could still be done to workers and those who came in contact with the fumigant.
Methyl Iodide's History of Controversy
Monterey County’s decision comes after years of controversy surrounding the use of methyl iodide. The pesticide was approved by the EPA to replace methyl bromide in 2007. In September 2007, 50 chemists and physicians expressed serious concerns about the pesticide’s approval, fearing a lack of peer reviewed studies to prove its safety. The same appeals from scientists surfaced when it was approved in California. Thirty-five California legislatures wrote EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson a letter asking that the EPA ban the use of the pesticide.
Methyl Iodide Risks
Methyl iodide is a toxic fumigant that can be sprayed or injected into the ground. It’s a drift-prone, volatile organic compound that puts those that breathe it in at risk. “[M]ethyl iodide [was] listed in 1988 as a known carcinogen on California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.7" as well.
It will be interesting to see whether this move from California’s largest agricultural producer will push other California counties and the state to reexamine use of the pesticide.