Stronger rules on pesticides in soil

The American Environmental Protection Agency is to strengthen safety measures around pesticides put into the soil during farming.

The pesticides, or fumigants, are used on a wide range of crops mainly potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, carrots and peppers.

The agency says the safety measures will reduce the exposure to fumes of people living near to agricultural fields that are fumigated.

As well as increasing the safety of the process by making sure those use it are subject to stronger planning rules.

Soil fumigants are pesticides injected or incorporated into soil to form a gas in the dirt that kills a wide array of pests.

However, the side effects of the gas mean it can travel from the soil and into the air.

Off-site workers or bystanders exposed to these pesticides can experience eye, nose, throat, or breathing problems, 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.

Lisa Jackson, agency administrator, said: “With new restrictions, we’re allowing the continued use of fumigant pesticides without risking human health and the environment.

“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.”

The soil fumigants methyl bromide, chloropicrin, dazomet, metam sodium, metam potassium, and iodomethane are all subject to the new requirements.

The measures will be implemented starting in the 2010 and 2011 growing seasons.

Luke Walsh

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie