The Center for Investigating Reporting has released a new report analyzing the use of a hazardous pesticide on Strawberry crops and the disregard by state regulators on public and environmental health; increasing the risk of cancer and other serious health problems. The health risk is particularly prevalent in certain school communities surrounded by agricultural fields.
The report focuses on a pesticide called 1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D), a restricted use soil fumigant used to kill nematodes, insects, and weeds, that has strong links to cancer and other serious health issues. The use of this chemical has increased with the forced reduction of another fumigant, methyl bromide, due to health and environmental concerns.
Methyl Bromide was the subject of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, signed by President Reagan, which banned the pesticide. The California strawberry growing industry was responsible for using nearly a million pounds of methyl bromide per year, while other strawberry-producing countries like Spain and Japan have used none. With increasing pressure from the international environmental community and because of serious health risks associated with methyl bromide and despite claims that no alternative exists, chemical companies and strawberry growers turned to 1,3-D.
The report reveals the same growing concern with the use of 1,3-D. Increased uses of 1,3-D results in unsafe levels of the chemical in the air and decisions behind 1,3-D monitoring and application rates are fraught with industry manipulation and risk reduction loop holes. Specifically, California regulators allowed growers to blow through the 1,3-D health limits, despite documented concerns from state scientists, and turned to the industry responsible for production of 1,3-D, Dow AgroSciences, to figure out how to fix the problem.
The state has allowed growers in six communities from Merced to Santa Barbara to exceed the limits every year since 2002. Some areas in Merced and strawberry centers like Monterey and Ventura counties have exceeded the limit by startling amounts.
Near New Republic Elementary School in Salinas growers and Dow have been able to use a total of 1.3 million pounds more 1,3-D than the original rules allowed.
In Oxnard, Rio Mesa High School is boxed in on all four sides by strawberry fields. It’s surrounded by more of the most risky pesticides than any other school in the state. Here, strawberry growers surpassed the original 1,3-D health limits in 10 out of 12 years.