Toxic Farm Fumigants Drifting Into California Neighborhoods

Study Finds Methyl Bromide in Air in Ventura and Castroville
Testing of air in two California neighborhoods adjacent to agricultural fields receiving applications of the soil fumigant methyl bromide revealed high levels of this extremely toxic pesticide outside state mandated buffer zones. Buffer zones are recommended based on the size of the field and the rate of methyl bromide application and are intended to protect the public from exposure to unsafe levels methyl bromide. Air monitoring was conducted using a state-of-the-art remote sensing device, the open-path FTIR. This system is approved by the US EPA to monitor toxic gas emissions and to measure air pollution releases from factories and refineries. It is recognized as superior to testing methods used by the state of California for monitoring pesticide gases like methyl bromide.

• Analysis of air in a residential neighborhood in Castroville found 36 individual confirmed detections exceeding the State of California’s 24 hour safety standard of 210 parts per billion at a distance of more than 1,300 feet from the application site, 6 times the state recommended “safety” buffer zone of 220 feet. The average of the confirmed methyl bromide detections during one 12 hour period was 204 ppb, approaching the state safety standard (Figure 1).

• Air monitoring also verified high levels of methyl bromide in a Ventura County suburb where residents were poisoned by methyl bromide applied to a nearby strawberry field in recent weeks. Individual detections ranged from 299 to 1,900 parts per billion. All individual detections were above the state mandated 24 hour safety standard of 210 ppb. During one 12 hour period, the average level detected was 294 ppb, exceeding the 210 ppb safety standard. Air monitoring was conducted along a continuous path from the yard of a home/day care center down a street parallel to the fence line of the fumigated field. The street is regularly used by neighborhood kids as a basketball court. An application of methyl bromide to an adjoining field the week before had a buffer zone that extended into the backyards of a row of homes next to the field, a practice which is legal, but clearly not safe for the residents. A resident and mother of four, who operates a child day-care center in her home, and several of her neighbors, suffered symptoms of methyl bromide poisoning from this fumigation early in August. The day-care center operator temporarily moved the children in her care to a local beach to avoid the fumes, and another neighbor also moved out temporarily, taking along twin, 2 year-old children. State officials are now investigating the case.

View and Download our report here: Toxic Farm Fumigants Drifting Into California Neighborhoods

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