Chloropicrin has been used safely nationwide by farmers for more than 50 years to clean their soil before a crop is planted in order to eradicate soil-borne diseases and pests. One of the most important ingredients for growing good crops is clean soil.
Chloropicrin can safely be used on farms, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which has completed a comprehensive and exhaustive 8-year review of its effect on health, safety and the environment. Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or the EPA consider it a carcinogen. There are no valid studies that indicate any major health risks to consumers associated with chloropicrin. The primary affects for anyone accidentally exposed to it are short-term eye irritation, tears, possibly a scratchy throat or coughing. But with proper use, these incidents are rare.
In a process similar to EPA's, California's Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) now is conducting a review of the safety measures currently required for chloropicrin use by farmers in the state. This review, called reevaluation, is required by California law.
California farmers rely on the continued, safe use of chloropicrin as many family farmers in California already are being driven out of business by many factors, including government regulations and restrictions, and there are no viable alternatives to this important crop protection tool. Use requirements that are significantly and unnecessarily more restrictive than the EPA approved labels would severely penalize California farmers, since farmers in other states and other countries could continue to use chloropicrin with fewer restrictions to grow crops that they could ship to California, putting California farmers at a disadvantage. If growers are not able to use chloropicrin for pest management, California consumers would not have as many locally-produced fruits and vegetables as they have now.
California already has the most protective farming regulations in the world. Farmers comply with more than 70 different laws and regulations to grow their crops. California farmers have a great track record, having safely used chloropicrin here for more than 50 years to combat soil disease and to prevent devastating crop failures. Without chloropicrin, these crop failures could wipe out nearly 70,000 jobs that California can't afford to lose.
Environmentally, chloropicrin does not have a significant ozone depletion potential because it undergoes rapid breakdown in sunlight. The breakdown products of chloropicrin in soil (carbon dioxide, nitrate, chloride) are basic nutrients not only for the plants but also for the beneficial microorganisms that inhabit crop soils.
Chloropicrin is applied in soils before crops are planted. Some of the crops that are grown in these soils are nursery plants, peppers, strawberries and some other fruits and vegetables. It also can be used on stored grains to eliminate insects and is required to be used as a warning agent with fumigants used by home pest control companies. Like most fumigants, chloropicrin is a "restricted use pesticide" so its distribution and use are highly controlled to licensed professionals and specially certified growers who are trained in its proper and safe use.
Chloropicrin is a clear liquid that is injected into the soil, or run through drip tubes below the soil surface, 14 days or more before crop planting. It kills target fungi within 48 hours of application and also controls some root-destroying tiny worms, insects and other plant-limiting pests. It is NOT applied or sprayed onto crops.
Even in soil with adequate nutrients, water and oxygen, plant growth and crop yields can decline over time due to increasing levels of soil diseases and other pests. In the 1950s, before soil fumigation with chloropicrin, farmers began to see plummeting crop yields. The problem was not lack of soil nutrients--it was lack of healthy plants. Root diseases were widespread and the partially damaged roots were not capable of absorbing nitrogen that was available in the soil.