Seeing RED On New Fumigant Rules

In July, Florida Grower reported that EPA had released final and revised Re-registration Eligibility Decisions (REDs) for methyl bromide, chloropicrin, Vapam (metam sodium, AMVAC), and Kpam (metam potassium, AMVAC). (Read the story.) Thanks to an outpouring of comments from industry and growers on the proposed changes, the REDs will not be as bad as originally designed. With completion of the REDs, these new changes will be mandated to appear on the fumigant pesticide label within two years. They will include requirements for buffer zones; posting and notification; respiratory protection including OSHA training, fit testing, and medical certification; good agricultural practices; fumigant management plans; fumigant site air monitoring; and emergency response plans, among others.

Better Buffers

FMP Not-So-Short List

It’s not a short list of elements that must be addressed and provided in fumigant management plans upon request of workers, local, state, and federal officials.

• general site information (location, map, proximity to residences, etc.)
• applicator information (name, address, license numbers, training, etc.)
• authorized personnel present
• application procedures(products, rates, equipment, calibration, mulch, etc.)
• measurements taken to verify compliance with good application practices
• how buffers were determined
• worker protection information
• procedures for air monitoring
• posting
• training of applicators supervising fumigations
• communication among key parties
• hazard communication
• record keeping
• site-specific response and management activities
• emergency plans
• procedures for controlling fumigant releases in case of problems during or after the application

As originally proposed, new buffer zones would have been a major impediment for growers, particularly in more populated areas. However, the final REDs are no longer as significant of an issue if typical rates of chloropicrin, Vapam, and Kpam are used. In addition, EPA will provide a 60% buffer-zone reducing credit if growers use virtually impermeable plastic mulches to reduce emissions from the soil, and other opportunities for credits exist for the fumigant.

EPA also determined that buffer zones may overlap as long as 12 hours has passed from one application until the second application. Air monitoring of the field periphery of the buffer zone is still required, with growers expected to determine and record a sensory perception (smell test) of whether pungent odors exist four times a day for the duration of the buffer.

Record-Keeping Nightmare

The REDs will require a fumigant management plan (FMP) to collect and record data to reduce worker risk and confirm that growers are following labels. These reports will have to be kept by growers for two years.

Within 30 days of completing the application portion of the fumigation process, the certified applicator supervising the application must also complete a post fumigation application summary that describes any deviations from the FMP that occurred, measurements taken to comply with good agricultural practices, as well as any complaints and/or incidents that have been reported to him/her.

Respirators And Smell Tests

As a general rule, the new REDs will not initially require formal air testing with expensive monitoring equipment. The new fumigant labels will require certified applicators to decide whether to stop work or demand workers (handlers) put on respirators when sensory irritation is experienced by any handler in the field. The certified applicator cannot ask any handler to wear a respirator unless 1) he or she has received certification for completing an OSHA training course on how to wear a respirator; 2) has received certification for fit testing; and 3) has received medical certification to be able to wear a respirator. If work is stopped, then all handlers must exit the field, and can only return after two consecutive air samples indicate air concentrations of the fumigant are below threshold level. Respirators must be kept on site and fitted to be worn by the applicators and handlers responsible for the application.

More On The Way

While this round of REDs for fumigants turned out to be less restrictive than originally proposed, EPA has announced the next round of fumigant registrations will start in 2013. The bottom-line for growers will be that the new and future RED’s will add more burdens and costs for the grower to bare.

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