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Panel Rejects Methyl Iodide

Posted on Feb 23, 2010
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EPA says it will consider California's science in its rules
By Wes Sander
Capital Press
Saturday, February 20, 2010

SACRAMENTO -- A scientific review panel says methyl iodide poses significant human-health risks and would be difficult to control in farm applications.

The report could impact the chemical's status as a federally registered pesticide.

Methyl iodide is being considered by state officials as a soil fumigant to replace methyl bromide, which has been phased out under international agreement due to its ozone-depleting properties.

The state Department of Pesticide Regulation released a final report by the review panel on Feb. 11. In an accompanying letter, the panel decried a lack of sufficient data on the chemical's possible health and environmental impacts.

The panel, composed of University of California scientists, said field-safety measures cannot adequately protect workers.

"Due to the potent toxicity of methyl iodide, its transport in and ultimate fate in the environment, adequate control of human exposure would be difficult, if not impossible," the letter stated.

The Environmental Protection Agency registered the pesticide for commercial sale and use in 2007. Every state except California, Washington and New York has since followed suit. Most states do not conduct their own registration processes.

Jim Jones, deputy assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the agency will factor any new conclusions drawn from California's process into its own registration of methyl iodide.

The agency regularly revisits -- and revises or revokes registrations -- of regulated chemicals, Jones said. The agency expects to decide within two months whether any information in California's process will impact EPA's registration of methyl iodide, Jones said.

"We now have a peer review from a very credible group in California," Jones said. "What we've been saying since last spring is that we would take a serious look at (the report)."

In hearings in recent months before the review panel and state lawmakers, scientists have expressed alarm that methyl iodide might be applied to farm fields, while farm interests testified that having no soil fumigant would likely put them out of business.

A spokesperson for Arysta LifeScience, the manufacturer that sells the chemical as a soil fumigant, said the review panel's conclusions are off-base because panel members' perspectives are largely limited to laboratory research.

Application practices take every precaution to ensure the chemical does not escape from beneath the soil, the company spokesperson said.

DPR spokeswoman Lea Brooks said the panel surpassed what the state requested by implicitly opposing registration of methyl iodide. The agency had requested only a review of the science backing its assessment.

The panel said the state's assessment did not sufficiently allow for protecting public health, but was otherwise rigorous and thorough. The state will take those conclusion into consideration in making its decision, Brooks said.

The agency says it could make a final decision by the end of February.

This article can be read here.

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