Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Methyl iodide bad news for state's children

North Monterey County High

Methyl Iodide was approved for use as a fumigant at California farms despite the fact that it is a known carcinogen. Many parents, health care professionals and teachers are frightened by what this ruling could mean for the state’s children.

The concern is mostly focused on youth because the cancer takes time to develop and symptoms won’t occur until many years after exposure.

Though the fumigant poses a great danger to young people, few of them know it even exists, which is why pesticide activists’ current main goal is to spread awareness of this chemical’s use and effects. Additional concerns include endocrine problems, neurology damage and respiratory ailments. Other effects, including late term miscarriages and stunted intellect in children, threaten not only this generation, but future ones as well.

Methyl iodide is so well known as a carcinogen that it is used to create cancer in cells for laboratory purposes. The scientists that use the fumigant for such purposes have to fill out an abundance of paperwork, and during use wear bulky protective suits and follow procedures to prevent the fumigant from entering the air. However, if used for agricultural purposes, the fumigant will be near homes and likely to drift, despite the plastic tarps that the pesticide must remain under by law.

My school is located less than a mile from strawberry fields. Although methyl iodide will not be allowed so near a campus, doesn’t that confirm its basic risk?

Strawberry farmers feel that the immediate approval was entirely necessary. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. strawberries are grown in California and many large growers believe that methyl iodide is the best way to keep their berries free from insects and fungi. There are also people who believe that there are safe methods for applying methyl iodide, and that if these procedures are followed correctly they will cause no harm.

But, why now? Why must we immediately approve this substance when we have enough time to do further research on what the long-term effects may be?

If some of the predicted damage occurs, the effects will be permanent, which is of far more importance than the temporary delay in approval to allow further testing to take place.

Don’t we owe that much to our young people?

Monterey County Herald, 1/5/11, Page A6.