California’s Strawberry Field Poison Gets National Attention

You may have heard “methyl iodide” in the news over the weekend. It’s the name of the newest frighteningly toxic chemical — one that causes cancer and miscarriages — that California regulators are on the verge of approving for use on strawberry fields.

Last week California Senator Dean Florez held a hearing to give the scientists who reviewed the state’s assessment of methyl iodide an opportunity to voice their frustration that their recommendations have been ignored. The hearing resulted in national news coverage – both the New York Times and NPR’s Weekend Edition sent reporters to the hearing and featured stories about this toxic chemical.

The scientists who spoke at the hearing were unambiguous in their concerns about methyl iodide.

John Froines, a chemist and professor of environmental health sciences at UCLA and the chair of the methyl iodide scientific review panel said, “It is very worrisome, even frightening, to a chemist. And therefore it should be to the public as well. I honestly think that this chemical will cause disease and illness. And so does everyone else on the committee.”

“It would seem prudent to err on the side of caution, said Theodore A. Slotkin, a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center and also a member of the scientific review panel, “instead of going ahead and putting it into use, in which case the test animals will be the children of the state of California.”

Ed Loechler, a biology professor at Boston University explained how he felt when state regulators arbitrarily (and against the review panel’s recommendations) increased 120-fold the amount of methyl iodide that is “safe” for workers and residents who live near strawberry fields. “I was shocked,” he said. He didn’t need to say any more.

California will be making the final decision about methyl iodide soon. Please join the thousands of people who have spoken up to  keep this poison out of California. Tell Governor Schwarzenegger that Californian’s health is more important than pesticide company profits.