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California Strawberry Industry Defends Ozone-Depleting Chemical as Children Face Unprecedented Skin Cancer Risks


WASHINGTON, D.C., February 27, 2006 -- Pointing to recent news that the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer is expected to increase significantly in the next few years, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today called on the California Strawberry Commission to cease using the ozone layer destroying pesticide methyl bromide.

The California Strawberry Commission is leading lobbying efforts to continue to use methyl bromide despite the fact that this chemical represents the single greatest threat to the ozone layer over the next 5-10 years when ozone depletion is expected to reach its highest levels to date. The ozone layer protects life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

“Methyl bromide is an acutely powerful ozone destroying chemical that does most of its damage in a very short period of time,” EIA campaigner, Danielle Grabiel said. “Conservative estimates by leading scientists indicate that the immediate ozone-depleting impact of the methyl bromide consumed just by U.S. agriculture is greater than that of the global consumption of any other ozone depleting chemical.”

Because of methyl bromide’s significant short-term impact on the ozone layer, EIA is calling on the California Strawberry Commission to commit to an aggressive schedule to completely phase out its use. “As one of the largest consumers of methyl bromide in the world, the California strawberry industry has an opportunity and an obligation to protect children and the global environment by ceasing its use of this chemical once and for all,” Grabiel said.

Children are most vulnerable to elevated levels of radiation from ozone thinning. Childhood skin cancer incidence in the United States has more than doubled in the last two decades, while U.S. skin cancer rates are increasing by 3% a year, according to the American Cancer Society. Meanwhile, predictions for recovery of the ozone layer have recently been pushed back from 2050 to 2065. The 2005 Antarctic ozone hole was one of the deepest and largest ever recorded.

Editor’s Notes:

• EIA is an independent, international non-profit organization committed to investigating and exposing environmental crimes around the world. EIA works undercover to expose international environmental crime – such as the illegal trade in wildlife, illegal logging and trade in timber species, and the worldwide trade in ozone depleting substances. EIA has been actively tracking the global illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS) since the mid-1990s to provide information to the Montreal Protocol and other relevant bodies.

• The Montreal Protocol was agreed on January 1, 1987 and is now ratified by 188 countries. Under the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, ozone-depleting substances are to be reduced and eliminated through the development of chemical substitutes and alternative manufacturing processes (elimination is the final objective). Methyl bromide was scheduled to be phased out in 2005 in developed countries, but the U.S. has taken advantage of a treaty loophole to continue using excessive quantities of methyl bromide beyond the phase-out date.

• Currently, an estimated 66,000 deaths occur annually from melanoma and other skin cancers. Every year, there are between two and three million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers and more than 130,000 new melanoma skin cancer cases diagnosed worldwide. In the U.S., skin cancer kills one American every hour and one in five will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

• The EU, Japan and most developing countries oppose excessive U.S. demands to continue using methyl bromide past phase-out. There are proven alternatives to methyl bromide that are being used worldwide and in the United States.



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