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EPA Strengthens Safety Measures for Soil Fumigant Pesticides

Release Date: 05/27/2009
Contact Information: (News media only) Dale Kemery, 202-564-4355 / (Other inquiries) John Leahy, 703-305-6703 /; Prensa en español: Lina Younes, (202) 564-4355 /

(Washington, D.C. – May 27, 2009) The Environmental Protection Agency is strengthening safety measures for soil fumigant pesticides. The safety measures will reduce fumigant exposures to bystanders—people who live, work, attend school, or spend time near agricultural fields that are fumigated—and increase overall safety of fumigant use by requiring greater planning and compliance.

“With new restrictions, we’re allowing the continued use of fumigant pesticides without risking human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Full transparency and the best science shaped a plan to protect the economic interests of agricultural communities and the public health of farm workers and consumers.”

Soil fumigants are pesticides that, when injected or incorporated into soil, form a gas that permeates the soil and kills a wide array of soil-borne pests. The gas can migrate from the soil into the air. Off-site workers or bystanders exposed to these pesticides may experience eye, nose, throat, or respiratory irritation, or more severe poisonings, depending on the fumigant and level of exposure. Some of the new safety measures include creating buffer zones, enforcing posting requirements, adding measures to protect agricultural workers and strengthening training programs, among other practices.

EPA took extensive public comments on the safety measures, announced initially in July 2008, to refine the measures as needed and develop an implementation strategy. This included many public meetings and visits with state agencies and agricultural, farm worker, and public health constituents. Adjustments to the 2008 proposal have been made based upon new scientific data and improved information on certain technological capabilities. EPA will continue to work with state agencies, growers, farm workers, and public health officials to achieve the new protections while minimizing costs and burdens on growers. The measures will be implemented starting in the 2010 and 2011 growing seasons.

Fumigants are used on a wide range of crops, primarily potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, and peppers. The soil fumigants methyl bromide, chloropicrin, dazomet, metam sodium, metam potassium, and iodomethane are all subject to the new requirements.

More information on fumigants: