EPA Extends Comment Period for Soil Fumigant Safety Restrictions

Makers and users of soil fumigants will have an additional 45 days in which to comment on Reregistration Eligibility Decisions (REDs) regarding the following pesticides: Chloropicrin, Dazomet, Metam sodium/postassiu (including methyl isothiocyanate or MITC), and Methyl bromide. On July 16, EPA announced availability of REDs for the pesticides, which are used to kill soil-borne pests in many crops, and opened a 60-day public comment period on these RED documents. Now, in response to requests from groups representing manufacturers and users of soil fumigants, the agency is extending the public comment period until Oct. 30.

EPA says that as it strengthens the restrictions on the use of fumigants, it encourages stakeholders affected by this decision to carefully review the mitigation measures and provide productive input on the new restrictions. The agency adds it believes that through constructive analysis of the new restrictions and input the new restrictions can be successfully and practically implemented by users and growers while also increasing the safety of these pest control tools.

Soil fumigants are used primarily on potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries carrots, and peppers, EPA says. When fumigants dissipate from the soil, workers or bystanders who are exposed to these pesticides may experience eye or respiratory irritation, or more severe and irreversible effects, depending on the fumigant and level of exposure. The agency reviewed the soil fumigants together as a group to ensure that similar risk assessment tools and methods were used for all and that risk management approaches were consistent. EPA has determined that the soil fumigants are eligible for reregistration with risk mitigation measures that are designed to work together to increase protections for agricultural workers and bystanders. Those measures involve:

  • A written, site-specific fumigant management plan;
  • Buffer zones around treated fields;
  • Posting requirements so people do not enter treated areas;
  • Emergency preparedness information and training;
  • Outreach programs to educate the community;
  • Worker protection measures and training; and
  • Classification of all soil fumigant products as restricted-use pesticides.

EPA's decision will also halt the use of methyl bromide on sites where alternatives are available. The newly registered fumigant iodomethane will be reexamined later this year to determine what new mitigation or restrictions are necessary, the agency says. The soil fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene, which was evaluated previously, may be subject to similar provisions when the soil fumigants are evaluated together again in 2013. For more information or to find out how to provide comments, see EPA's soil fumigants Web page at www.epa.gov/pesticides/reregistration/soil_fumigants/index.htm.

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