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Commentary: Methyl Iodide a Danger to Farmworkers

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, August 5, 2011

Methyl iodide is a fumigant that kills weeds and soil-borne pests.  It's highly toxic. It can cause cancer, and damage the brains of children and developing fetuses. It has caused miscarriages in laboratory animals. All eight members of a scientific panel that reviewed the chemical for the state advised against permitting its use in California.

The Schwarzenegger administration ignored that advice and its own researchers. Methyl iodide was approved, just days before the former governor left office. Governor Jerry Brown has an opportunity to reverse that decision. He should do so immediately. Fumigation season is near for California strawberry farmers.

Because methyl iodide degrades before crops are planted, it poses no serious risk to consumers, but farm workers especially, and anyone living downwind are in danger. The chemical's fumes can travel long distances. Even when applicators don masks and protective gear, and tarps are laid to keep vapors in the soil, the risk of exposure remains.

In March, Brown promised that his administration would reconsider the state's position. Now, it's time to make the call. Keep methyl iodide out of California.


Intern Max Ehrenfreund writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.

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