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California Ban on Methyl Bromide Use

Heavy Methyl Bromide Use Near California Schools: California Ban on Methyl Bromide Use

February 8, 1996

The California Birth Defects Prevention Act of 1984 (SB 950) required that all pesticides registered for use in California be supported by a complete battery of health effects testing data by 1991. Specifically, the law stipulates that pesticides registered for use in California must meet the animal study requirements promulgated by the U.S. EPA for cancer, reproductive harm, chromosomal damage and birth defects. The California law differs from the federal requirements, however, because it places strict deadlines on submission of test results.

In 1987, manufacturers of about one hundred common pesticidal chemicals, including methyl bromide, announced that they would not meet the 1991 deadlines. In 1991, the California legislature amended the law to give pesticide companies more time to complete the studies. The deadline was extended five more years, but state lawmakers also set 1996 as the "drop dead" date, after which time, those pesticides with missing health data would be suspended for use in the state.

As the March 1996 deadline approached, methyl bromide producers and users appealed to the state for a special interest exemption to the law. On December 29th, Governor Wilson called a unprecedented Special Session of the state legislature for the expressed purpose of extending use of methyl bromide in California in absence of complete animal testing data.