California farmers have safely used chloropicrin for more than 50 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not classify it as a carcinogen. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a comprehensive and exhaustive eight-year review of chloropicrin and has concluded that it can continue to be used safely by farmers nationwide. EPA also does not consider it to be a carcinogen and said it had sufficient information on the human health and ecological effects to determined that it would not pose unreasonable risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment.
There are no valid studies that indicate any major health risks to consumers associated with chloropicrin. EPA requires farmers to implement a number of precautionary measures to protect workers and others in near proximity to fields that are being treated (or have recently been treated) with chloropicrin. Some of those precautionary measures include requiring farmers to implement a "buffer zone" around fields that are being treated, signs posted in fields during and immediately after being treated to caution workers not to enter, treatment restrictions in areas near schools, state licensed daycare centers, nursing homes and hospitals, requirements for the use of tarps during and after the treatments, training of workers; emergency preparedness and response programs, and notices to emergency response agencies. These and other measures are in place to help insure the health and safety of workers and the community. The primary affects for anyone exposed to it during improper usage are short-term eye irritation, tears, possibly a scratchy throat or coughing. But these incidents are rare.
Environmentally, chloropicrin does not have a significant ozone depletion potential because it undergoes rapid breakdown in sunlight. It is metabolized in soil to carbon dioxide. In a plant metabolism study utilizing soil treated with it, no chloropicrin or nitromethane was detected in any plant tissue or harvested produce. The breakdown products of chloropicrin in soil (carbon dioxide, nitrate, chloride) are basic nutrients not only for the plants but also for the microorganisms that inhabit the soils.
Even though the federal EPA re-registered chloropicrin after a comprehensive eight-year study of its effect on health, safety and the environment, California state law requires CDPR to conduct its own scientific assessment and reevaluation of the safety measures required for use in the state.
CDPR will make an initial decision based on the scientific evidence and is expected to announce that decision in early 2013. It will open a formal comment period, usually 90 days, for the public to provide their comments. After reviewing the comments, CDPR is expected to announce its final decision by the end of 2013.
California consumers would likely have much less locally-produced fruits and vegetables and will have to import more food from other states and countries, if chloropicrin is not re-registered by the state. For just one crop, 70,000 jobs in California could be lost. More of California's family farmers would be driven out of business since they would be at a great competitive disadvantage to farmers in other states and countries where chloropicrin is still available to control plant diseases in the soil.
Farmers in other states and countries can legally use chloropicrin and will be able export their products to California consumers even if CDPR denies California's own farmers the same option.
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