Bush Administration Pushing for Methyl Bromide Exemption from Montreal Protocol

Toxic Pesticide Damages Ozone Layer

WASHINGTON (February 7, 2003) - The Bush administration's proposal to allow the continued use of the pesticide methyl bromide will increase the risk of cancer, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The administration today requested 54 exemptions from the methyl bromide phase-out required by the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty to protect the ozone layer.

"This attack on the ozone layer will put more people at risk of cancer," says David Doniger, policy director of NRDC's Climate Center. "It also punishes the responsible growers who have invested time and money into adopting safer alternatives."

Under the Montreal Protocol, the United States began an orderly phase-out of methyl bromide -- the most powerful ozone-depleting chemical still is use -- a decade ago. The treaty required a 50 percent reduction in the chemical's use until January 1, 2003, after which a 70 percent reduction took effect. Methyl bromide production is to end after January 1, 2005, except for "critical uses" for which there are no safer alternatives. Other pesticides and crop management techniques are available to eliminate most of the methyl bromide still in use and stop damaging the ozone layer.

The administration requested exemptions totaling 39 percent of the baseline production level, even though the Montreal protocol allows exemptions of no more than 30 percent. Therefore, this means the U.S. request amounts to a violation of the treaty.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.