Methyl Bromide

A campaign to stop the use of methyl bromide at a flower farm near CATs' office achieved its goal in 1997. The farmer stopped using the fumigant in response to hundreds of calls, letters and petitions from his neighbors. When the campaign began in 1995, Sun Valley Flower Farm -- located on the western edge of Arcata within a half-mile of several daycare centers and much of the small town was pumping 10,000 pounds of the highly evaporative and toxic chemical into the soil in a three day stretch each summer. Almost 20 million pounds of the fumigant are used in California annually.

Methyl bromide is acutely toxic and scores of people have been seriously injured or died from exposures. A Los Angeles woman was killed as she slept in her home last year while a house was fumigated nearby. California has listed it as a birth defect chemical under Proposition 65, and it causes permanent nerve damage.

The earth's protective ozone layer is another victim of methyl bromide's toxic action. CATs' director Patty Clary served on a United Nations committee from 1993 until 1997, helping write two international reports on alternatives to the chemical. To protect the ozone layer, methyl bromide will be banned in the U.S. in 2001, and around the world a few years later.

Air samples taken near schools and in backyards near field fumigations on California's Central Coast in 1997 found illegal levels of methyl bromide, which supported CATs' position that the odorless and invisible gas drifts off-site in amounts that threaten the health of unsuspecting neighbors. Thanks to the efforts of Arcata residents and the positive response of the flower farmer, methyl bromide is no longer used near schools or backyards in one California town.



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