Chloropicrin is used to benefit a variety of California crops including almonds, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, tree fruit, melons and strawberries, just to name a few. It has been used safely by farmers for more than 50 years and neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the federal EPA classify it as a carcinogen.
EPA reviews risks to potentially sensitive groups such as children and incorporates those safety factors into its regulations before allowing use by farmers. EPA re-approved chloropicrin for use by farmers nationwide in 2008 after a comprehensive 8-year study.
Chloropicrin is applied into the soil before a crop is planted and then the soil is covered with heavy-duty plastic; it is NOT sprayed onto a crop. When fields are near schools, this application is done when schools are NOT occupied – usually weekends or vacation periods. Even tougher restrictions have been implemented for the use of chloropicrin by the federal EPA in 2011 and 2012 – results which are not represented in this study from 2010. These increased restrictions include buffer zones between fields and occupied areas; notification of neighbors or monitoring of fields; additional worker protection measures; training of certified applicators; and others.
In its decision, EPA said, "Soil fumigation can provide benefits to both food consumers and growers. For consumers, it means more fresh fruits and vegetables can be cheaply produced domestically year-round because several severe pest problems can be efficiently controlled." 1