NRDC Reveals Stockpiles of Methyl Bromide Far Exceed Allowed Use
WASHINGTON (October 30, 2006) -- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has revealed that a handful of American chemical suppliers have stockpiled some 20 million pounds of methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting and cancer-causing pesticide - far more than American farmers need. Yet the U.S. government wants to let two American chemical companies profit by producing or importing another 20 million of pounds of this dangerous chemical over the next two years. The findings are being presented to delegates at an international meeting on the world's most effective environmental treaty this week.
At the annual meeting of the parties to the 1987 Montreal Protocol for protecting the ozone layer, taking place Oct. 30-Nov. 3 in New Delhi, India, NRDC is calling on the 189 member nations to block production of new methyl bromide production in light of the huge U.S. stockpiles.
"The administration is handing these two chemical companies a multi-million dollar bonus check while violating an international treaty and threatening public health," said David Doniger, policy director for NRDC's Climate Center.
Two chemical companies stand to gain the most from the government's treaty violations - a chemical maker called Chemtura (formerly called Great Lakes Chemicals) and an imported called Ameribrom (importing methyl bromide from Israel). They will earn between $60 and $80 million from the 20 million pounds of bonus production over the next two years. Methyl bromide currently sells for $3-4 per pound, but has sold for much more in the past few years, when unnecessary production was also occurring.
The Montreal treaty bans methyl bromide production after 2004 except for "critical" agricultural uses. In order to minimize the assault on the ozone layer, the treaty prohibits producing more methyl bromide unless stockpiles have been used up.
After a two year court battle, NRDC recently uncovered government data on huge stockpiles of methyl bromide held by a handful of American chemical suppliers. In a letter to the Montreal treaty delegates, NRDC showed that the U.S. methyl bromide stockpile has exceeded farmers' critical use needs every year since 2005, when critical use exemptions were first made.
U.S. stocks totaled 36.1 million pounds at the start of 2004, 28.6 million pounds at the start of 2005, and 21.9 million pounds at the start of 2006. Nearly 20 million pounds will be left at the start of 2007. Meanwhile, U.S. farmers are using far less than these amounts every year.
"These chemical companies already have enough methyl bromide on hand to meet farmers' needs," Doniger said. "Any more production just lines their pockets at the expense of our health and our country's international standing."
The letter to the delegates and a table showing the figures is available on request by emailing [email protected].
The Montreal Protocol, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and supported by subsequent U.S. presidents from both political parties, is intended to protect the ozone layer, which shields us from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation that increases risks of skin cancer, cataracts and immunological disease. Methyl bromide also causes prostate cancer in agricultural workers and others who are directly exposed, according to the National Cancer Institute.