[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: PANUPS: Methyl Bromide Drift

Members of your newsgroup may be interested in the
following statement issued on the day of the press
conference held by EWG, PAN et al. 
Glenn Brank, Information Officer
California Department of Pesticide Regulation
(916) 445-3970

	James W. Wells
	Director, Department of Pesticide Regulation

	The hysterical accusations against the
Department of Pesticide Regulation have reached a
despicable low point.  DPR has been the national
leader in developing and enforcing safer ways to use
pesticides, including methyl bromide.  Ironically, it is
since we began tightening down on methyl bromide
use in 1992 that the chorus of criticism has
escalated, reaching a overwrought crescendo with
today's accusations by Californians Against Pesticide

	It is time to look at science and fact, not--as
our accusers do--start with a point of view and bend
and stretch the truth until it somehow fits their skewed
view of the world.

	Key facts are:

	DPR did not keep *secret* that methyl bromide
can move from one area to another.  Any high school
physics student can tell you that a gas--like methyl
bromide--will move from one area to another.  This
scientific principle is known as Graham's Law of
Diffusion, and was actually discovered in 1829. 

	FACT:  We didn't need to tell fumigators about
it.  They already knew--that is why they use tarps to
hold methyl bromide in a structure during fumigation.  

	FACT:  That is also why existing law has long
required that all openings in a structure be sealed
before fumigation.

	As part of its continuing evaluation of methyl
bromide use practices, DPR did study methyl
bromide levels outside homes.  As a result, new
regulations will be noticed in September to carry out
even-tighter controls over methyl bromide use,
including buffer zones around structures, better tarps
over the fumigated structure, and increased controls
over methyl bromide when tarps are removed.

	FACT:  Even though the regulations are still to
be formalized, structural pest control firms have has
already adopted the new restrictions as the industry

	DPR recognized in 1992 that structural
exposures to methyl bromide needed stronger
controls.  Acting by emergency regulation, the
Department required lengthy ventilation periods after
structural fumigations to reduce the risk to returning
residents.  DPR's action was later followed by U.S.
EPA, which imposed similar measures for the rest of
the nation. In California, DPR's regulation had the
effect of dramatically reducing the use of methyl
bromide in structural fumigations.  Before DPR took
action in 1992, methyl bromide was used in about 45
percent of the state 100,000 structural fumigations
each year. (The remaining fumigations used sulfuryl
fluoride.)  Today, only about 13 percent of the
fumigations are with methyl bromide.

	FACT: There is no connection between a
fatality in Los Angeles and alleged shortcomings in
laws or regulations governing methyl bromide.
	Before a structure can be fumigated with
methyl bromide, the law requires the applicator to
carefully inspect the structure and seal all openings. 
Until last March, there had been no deaths related to
methyl bromide structural fumigations since early
1992--before DPR imposed strict controls.  The
March fatality involved a woman in Los Angeles
County. After investigation, it was found there were
several open electrical conduits running from the floor
of the treated building underground to the floor of the
woman's home.  These conduits are not standard in
building construction, and the applicator did not see
them and therefore did not seal them, as required by
the law.

	FACT: The study was not secret.  It was
mailed early last year to at least 15 university
libraries--standard practice for this type of study.  It
was also presented and distributed at a public
meeting last November.

	As part of its continuing evaluation of methyl
bromide use practices, DPR scientists have done a
number of studies of structural fumigations.  One
study was done at an abandoned Air Force base near
Sacramento.  The base was selected for the study
because the homes were unoccupied.  The study
involved treating one house seven times using various
application techniques.  Each time, methyl bromide
levels were measured outside around the home and
in neighboring homes.  In the first phase of the study,
methyl bromide levels inside one neighboring home
were much higher than would be expected.  

	An examination of blueprints of the area
revealed a nonstandard sewer connection between
this home and the treated house.  We found that the
sewer system had been drained when the Air Force
abandoned the base, and there was an open
connection between the two homes.  Our scientists
filled the sewer with water and next time a treatment
was done, the problem did not reoccur.  It would also
not be expected to occur in any home with functioning
plumbing.  And if plumbing did not function, odors
from sewer gases would drive residents out.

	FACT: No entity--inside or outside
government--has studied methyl bromide as
intensively and extensively as DPR scientists have in
the past five years.

	It is ironic that DPR began its strict controls on
methyl bromide in 1992 and has been the focus of
criticism ever since.  First from farmers, who
protested that their counterparts in other states did
not have to abide by such restrictions, and the cost of
complying would make California farmers less
competitive.  Nonetheless, DPR has continued to
carry out increasingly tough restrictions to protect
both workers and the public.

  	DPR will continue to evaluate the toxicology of
methyl bromide and periodically examine the
effectiveness of use restrictions to fine-tune them if
necessary.  DPR has earned its expertise in this
arena through careful, complex, and meticulous
scientific work.  DPR scientists and specialists have
devoted thousands of hours to ensuring that this
chemical be used safely with every protection for all