Last week, Jon Brooks wrote a post about the latest chapter in California's approval of a controversial strawberry fumigant, called methyl iodide.
Soon after, we received an email from a representative of Arysta Lifescience, the company that manufactures methyl iodide for agricultural use, asserting that we had only presented one side of the story, and offering us an interview with Jeff Tweedy, Arysta's head of business development. I have been following this story for a while, so I gave Mr. Tweedy a call.
A little background: Methyl iodide is a toxic chemical that causes cancer and miscarriages in animal lab tests. Case studies of humans who have been exposed to methyl iodide suggest that the chemical can also cause brain damage. When California's Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the use of methyl iodide in December, it did so with a set of conditions. One of these was a maximum exposure level -- a ceiling on how much methyl iodide farm workers could be exposed to.
The maximum exposure the DPR set was 96 parts per billion (ppb).
That number, however, is 120 times higher than the exposure level that the DPR's staff scientists believed was safe. Anything over 0.8 ppb, those scientists had concluded, could put field workers at risk.