The "ides" of Autumn, zinc phosphide & methyl bromide
Recently, two pesticides, zinc phosphide, a rodenticide and methyl bromide, a fumigant have been the subjects of reports and concern. Each chemical has a long history of use and has been associated with toxic adverse effects over the years. A brief summary for each chemical is followed by a more detailed report with references.
Zinc phosphide, a rodenticide, is an intensely toxic chemical active ingredient with a history of adverse effects in people, pets and wildlife. It has over the counter (OTC) status for certain uses.
Zinc phosphide has not received as much regulatory attention by the USEPA as have some other rodenticides or in our opinion as is needed.
We call on the USEPA to provide greater protection from this chemical due to its highly toxic nature, its history of adverse effects (including a recent report from a Washington State Health official) and its over the counter (OTC) availability in certain products.
We provide details from medical literature and citizen experience.
In addition we raise the issue of whether this hazardous chemical should be available for the killing of garden moles in the form of a toxic bait.
Biointegral Resource Center (BIRC) a respected pest management information organization maintains that although moles may produce unsightly holes and tunnels, they are mainly carnivorous eating grubs and other earth-dwelling insects, thus providing a type of natural pest management service for gardeners. (See "Conclusions" for details.)
UPDATE: On October 25th, the Chevy Chase Club board members—where the use of methyl bromide had been planned to fumigate the greens on their golf course in 2012—announced the withdrawal of that proposed action in favor of alternate ways to manage their turf problem.
In late September 2011, the highly toxic methyl bromide was in the news after sources revealed that Maryland's Chevy Chase Club plans to apply this potent neurotoxic pesticide in 2012 as a fumigant to a section of its golf course. The application is intended to remove the weed Poa annua, (a type of blue grass).
A fumigant pesticide is a volatile material with vapors capable of destroying insects, bacteria and other living organisms.
Note: In addition to methyl bromide's fumigant properties (kills plants, bacteria, fungi, insects, invertebrates, and vertebrates), it is capable of destroying the earth's protective ozone layer. As an ozone depleter methyl bromide is regulated under The Clean Air Act as well as The Montreal Protocol (an international agreement). The plan for this potent chemical fumigant's application to turf near their homes, schools, churches, shopping areas, and sidewalks has alarmed residents living around the Club. It has also resulted in a critical editorial in The Washington Post (10-1-11).
Due to its adverse effect on the Earth's ozone layer, methyl bromide's use as a fumigant has been banned from most countries. In the U.S. certain applications are legal until 2013. Although the Chevy Chase Club has pledged to take the recommended precautions with methyl bromide, they cannot rule out the possibility of an accident. Considering the chemical's highly toxic nature and the Club's proximity to a residential neighborhood, we believe this proposed use should be abandoned. Looking to the future, we would hope that golf professionals will consider revising the standards for course turf to preserve playability while also decreasing the need for toxic chemicals to create acceptable turf. Jeff Carlson, a golf course superintendent is supportive of such an effort. Is it reasonable to expose a community's health and the environment to a potential hazard for the sole purpose of improving the type of grass on a golf course? Read on for details.