The Machiavellians of methyl bromide

by Minister Masada
he beast is here. And he is waging a battle against the people of the Barrio Logan and the San Diego Unified School District. The Environmental Health Coalition has been the daring David, defending the community from the uncaring Goliath. These brave women have been armed only with weapons of courage, integrity and environmental justice. The beast is methyl bromide. The Goliath is the Unified Port District.

Methyl bromide is a dangerous broad spectrum pesticide. The Port District uses methyl bromide as a commodity treatment for imported fruit. Approximately 50 to 95 percent of methyl bromide used this way eventually enters the atmosphere. Perkins Elementary school is potentially downwind of emissions. For years, the teachers, children and neighbors have fought against methyl bromide poisoning.

Signs include respiratory, gastrointestinal and nerve damage. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, defective muscular coordination, and severe damage to lungs, eyes and skin. Depending upon the dose, gross permanent disabilities or even death may result. It is a sacrilegious obscenity for the Port District officials to sponsor a "Blessing of the Bay" ceremony and bounce around the bay in a bear dance, while they continue to disregard the wishes and needs of parents, babies and other living creatures in the barrio. Only God knows how many precious pets have been battered and bullied by the morbid dragon of methyl bromide.

The bully and the beast

The Environmental Protection Agency says that methyl bromide is toxic not only to target pests but to non-target organisms as well. Exposure of pregnant women can result in babies born with deficiencies. Sixty millions pounds of this poison are used annually for agricultural soil fumigation in the United States alone. Globally, 76,000 tons of this stuff is used, with North America claiming the highest usage at 41 percent. Europe is second highest at 26 percent. My instructor at an Integrated Pest Management class told us a person using or spraying methyl bromide should be well-suited. I think they should be wearing a space suit.

Ozone depletor

Three hundred of the world's leading atmospheric scientists say that bromine from methyl bromide is 50 times more effective at destroying ozone than chlorine from CFCs. The Montreal Protocol, an international treaty, calls for the total global phaseout of methyl bromide by the year 2001. The Protocol, signed by the United States, calls for an Integrated Pest Management program using chemicals and non-chemical alternatives. The chemical production and importation of methyl bromide will be prohibited.

It is Draconian and Machiavellian for the Port District to sue educational groups for opposing its poisonous practices, especially when those practices are going to be phased out anyway.

In mid-June, at the behest of hundreds of letters from San Diego, South Bay and Coronado residents to President Clinton and Vice President Gore, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton asked the Director of the E.P.A. to investigate the Port District's use of methyl bromide at its downtown fumigation facility. Maybe such an investigation will discover some justification for using any EPA Category 1 Acute Toxin so near human populations. The Port is not making money on it. And how wise a business decision is it to invest in a deadly chemical that is scheduled to be banned?

Do unto others

Have we descended to the level of civilized barbarity? What else could explain why a government agency is allowed to sue its constituents for opposing its hazardous policies? Yet while the Port District has not successfully operated a unit to recapture the poisonous gas and prevent emissions, it has found the time and money to sue EHC to try and keep them quiet about the Port's unsuccessful management of the facility.

I will lay my body down before I allow this to happen without a protest. Look for me in the whirlwind. I shall be there, blowing the breath of the dragon right back in the faces of the bullies who unleashed this dreadful beast. They have sown death in the wind... they shall reap the same in the whirlwind. Call 800-296-1996 if you would like free information about methyl bromide sent to you by the E.P.A.

Minister Masada is a researcher and author. She has been a regular weekly columnist for local and out-of-state publications and has lectured at UCSD and SDSU. She has been an organizer of support groups for abused mothers and helped establish Battered Woman's Syndrome as a recognized point in Federal courts. Currently, she is Chairwoman of the Sisterhood of Zion, a mother's advocate group