Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register (78 FR 32646-32650) requesting the critical use information from manufacturers, distributors and users of methyl bromide for 2016. This annual requirement is part of the EPA’s ‘phase-out’ of the use of methyl bromide as a fumigant in the agricultural sector under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
According to the notice the US recently submitted it recommendations for 2015 critical use exemptions and it “included only three uses (strawberries, fresh dates and dry cured ham)”. This is unusual since just last year the EPA and the Department of Agriculture approved the use of methyl bromide for fumigating imported shipments of cotton seed for cattle feed. That use is not discussed in this notice.
One of the reasons that the EPA has recommended only those three areas, arguably the largest current uses, for the use of methyl bromide is that they have determined that there are substitutes available for other uses. These substitutes include:
• Sulfuryl Flouride – Dried fruit and nuts/flour mills, rice mills and pet food; and
• 1,3-Dichloropropene – Cucurbits, Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato/Orchard Replant/Ornamentals/Nurseries/Golf Courses;
Neither of these substitutes is currently listed as a DHS chemical of interest (COI) for the CFATS program. The manufacturers of these pesticides almost certainly use COI, but this will probably not result in new manufacturing or distribution, just increases in volume.
Applicants can still apply for use of methyl bromide for the above applications, but they must show economic and/or efficacy data that shows that methyl bromide is justified in that use over the substitutes. It will be interesting to see how many such nominations are received or approved.
Methyl Bromide and CFATS
As a toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemical, methyl bromide was initially on the proposed DHS list of COI. As part of the rule making process, however, it was removed from the list because the phase out of its use would make it unnecessary. Here it is almost five years later and the use of methyl bromide is still on-going and will continue in at least some limited form for the foreseeable future.
DHS has had on-going conversations with the chemical industry and other interested parties about possible modifications to Appendix A of the CFATS regulations. It seems that these discussions have been sidelined by ISCD efforts to resolve other programmatic problems. If and when such efforts resume, the issue of methyl bromide needs to be readdressed.
NOTE: Last year’s notice for the 2015 critical use submissions was posted on May 18th; almost two weeks earlier than this post. This program keeps getting further and further behind on all of its administrative actions. This is part of the reason that the EPA keeps having to resort to extralegal actions to authorize legitimate uses of methyl bromide every year.