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pesticide

PetSmart selling unregistered pesticide products despite state order

About two months after the state’s environmental agency ordered a major pet products retailer to immediately cease selling unregistered pesticide products, many of those products remain on the retailer’s shelves and website.

“It’s illegal to sell a product that makes pesticidal claims in California unless it has been registered by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Pesticide Regulation,” said Lea Brooks, a spokeswoman for California’s Environmental Protection Agency and its Department of Pesticide Regulation.

In September, the pesticide department fined Phoenix-based PetSmart nearly $400,000 for selling 33 unregistered pesticide products [PDF] to California consumers. The products ranged from dog and cat shampoos to reptile cage liners. Once a product is registered, the state can evaluate it for toxins, which could be transferred from animals to humans.

The state's requirement applies to retailers, not product manufacturers. According to Brooks, the retailer is responsible for the products it sells on its shelves. 

 

If a manufacturer is making pesticidal clams, the product must be registered with the state and federal government, or the pesticidal claim must be removed from the labeling, which includes marketing material, Brooks said.

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Fumigant maker pulled disputed product facing court defeat

When Arysta LifeScience abruptly pulled methyl iodide off the market this week, it cited the “economic viability” of the controversial fumigant, which is used to sterilize soil before crops are planted.

But at a hearing in an Oakland courtroom Wednesday, another factor emerged: Arysta was on the verge of losing a major lawsuit.

California regulators approved methyl iodide in December 2010, in the final days of the Schwarzenegger administration. They did so over the objections of state scientists, who said trace amounts of the chemical would put farm workers and agricultural communities at risk of cancer, miscarriage or birth defects.

Farmers rely on fumigants to support the state’s $2.3 billion strawberry industry but have struggled to find environmentally safe products.

 

Immediately after California approved methyl iodide, environmental and farm-worker groups sued the state, arguing that regulators broke the law in approving the chemical. The opening hearing took place last month. 

But before the court could issue its opinion, attorneys for Arysta requested another hearing, to take place Wednesday. New details had emerged, they said, that would affect the case.

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report

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Memo points to industry pressure on pesticide

Environmentalists say a newly uncovered memo shows how the California Department of Pesticide Regulation gave in to industry pressure when it approved the controversial soil fumigant methyl iodide for use in California agriculture at levels more than 100 times higher than those its own scientists recommended.

The Feb. 16, 2010, memo by an executive of methyl iodide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience said maximum exposure levels that the state’s scientists had recommended for workers and people who live near agricultural fields were unacceptable to the company because they were too low.

“It is essential to revisit the toxicology assessment to come up with less conservative assumptions,” wrote John Street, the company’s global head of development and registration.

 

The memo was addressed to Jim Wells of Environmental Solutions Group, a Sacramento-based consulting firm that Arysta hired to help win regulatory approval for methyl iodide in California. Wells served as director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation in the 1990s.

Street recommended a range of exposure levels Arysta would support and laid out the calculations state pesticide regulation managers could make to arrive at those levels.

Eight months later, DPR managers overruled their own toxicologists – and a panel of expert scientists the department had commissioned to review the toxicologists’ work – and approved the use of methyl iodide at so-called regulatory target levels nearly identical to the lowest levels Street said would be acceptable to Arysta.

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EPA pesticide ban puts cotton growers on edge

The federal government announced on Tuesday a ban of a pesticide commonly used on food crops such as citrus, peanuts and sugar beets because of concerns about the chemical's effect on young children who may eat foods tainted with the chemical.

The ban will take immediate effect on all citrus and potato uses, but the pesticide will be phased out gradually for use on cotton, dry beans, peanuts, soybeans, sugar beets and sweet potatoes.

The ban is the result of an agreement reached between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Bayer CropScience LP, the manufacturer of the Temik 15G aldicarb pesticide.

"A new risk assessment conducted by EPA based on recently submitted toxicity data indicates that aldicarb no longer meets our rigorous food safety standards and may pose unacceptable dietary risks, especially to infants and young children," the EPA said in a statement.

In the 1980s, more than 2,000 people in California and Oregon became ill after eating watermelons contaminated by aldicarb. And the European Union banned it for a variety of crop uses in 2003, citing health concerns.

Bob Blakely of California Citrus Mutual, a trade association, said citrus growers in the state do not use the pesticide and won’t be affected by the agreement.

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report

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Safeguards against new farm chemical too weak, scientists say

California pesticide regulators plan to approve a new agricultural chemical to sterilize the soil of strawberry fields, but state records and interviews with scientists raise questions about whether workers and nearby communities can be adequately protected from the highly toxic chemical.

Currently, strawberry growers use a fumigant called methyl bromide, which is being phased out around the world because it damages the ozone layer. But the alternative, methyl iodide, a carcinogen and neurotoxin that can cause miscarriages and other medical problems, is considered far more toxic than methyl bromide.

In interviews with KQED's "Quest," members of a scientific review panel that examined the potential use of methyl iodide said it was clear to them that exposure levels would far exceed what they, along with staff scientists, had deemed safe.

"I understood those levels were unattainable," said panel member Edward L. Loechler, a professor of biology at Boston University. "It was blatantly obvious that those levels were unattainable."

The panel's chair, John Froines, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA, said, "I honestly think this chemical will cause disease and illness. And so does everyone else on the committee."

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report
Tags: pesticide

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Warning about strawberry field chemical ignored, scientists say

California pesticide regulators plan to approve a new agricultural chemical called methyl iodide for the state's coastal strawberry fields, allowing levels of exposure that the state's own experts say will put farmworkers and bystanders at risk.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation has set acceptable exposure levels for methyl iodide that are 120 times higher than recommended by its own scientists and an eight-person panel the department commissioned to peer-review its work.

The decision to increase exposure levels has caused a rift within the DPR, a little-known but powerful agency that oversees a major segment of the state's multibillion-dollar farming industry. In interviews, all eight peer-review scientists said their warnings and scientific analysis of the health risks of methyl iodide appear to have been disregarded.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Ron Melnick, a panel member and scientist at the National Institutes of Health, who has participated in similar assessments in the past. "Why have someone review a document when you're just going to ignore it?"

Thousands of Californians live, work or play within a stone's throw of the state's strawberry fields. Thousands more do the hands-on field work that supplies supermarkets across the country, fueling a $2 billion industry.

Currently, most California strawberry growers rely on a fumigant called methyl bromide. But that chemical is being phased out under an international treaty because it damages the ozone layer.

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report
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