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Bromide fumigation in residential areas must stop

27 October 2006

Methyl Bromide fumigation in residential areas must stop

"It is scandalous that containers are allowed to be fumigated with methyl bromide in urban and residential areas all over New Zealand, without residents being aware of it, and without proper monitoring or controls over the activity," Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley was commenting on a report by Parliament's Local Government and Environment committee in response to a petition calling for a complete phase out of methyl bromide use by 2012. The committee learned there were more than 6000 locations in New Zealand, including in urban and residential areas, where containers can be methyl bromided.

Ms Kedgley said it was alarming that containers can be fumigated with methyl bromide in residential areas, because after the fumigation process, the container doors are opened and the gas is released directly into the atmosphere. Depending on weather conditions, this means that methyl bromide in unpredictable concentrations could drift directly across to neighbouring residents and dwellings, Ms Kedgley said.

Ms Kedgley pointed out that methyl bromide is a highly toxic gas, especially to the lungs and nervous system. It can be fatal, and chronic exposure through the air has been associated with a range of neurological effects.

Ms Kedgley said the committee was informed that fumigation trucks turn up to containers located all around New Zealand, place tubes containing methyl bromide into containers, and leave them for a period of time, normally about 24 hours. After this period, the container doors are opened and the gas is released into the atmosphere - where it will contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.

"There is no monitoring to ensure that the amount of methyl bromide being released into the atmosphere is at a level that is allegedly safe, Ms Kedgley pointed out.

Ms Kedgley said residents had a right to know when a highly toxic gas such as methyl bromide was being used next to, or near, their homes, and then released into the atmosphere. The committee's recommendations about a process to be explored' to notify the public is a belated and inadequate recognition of the problem.

Ms Kedgley said the Green Party did not believe methyl bromide fumigation should be permitted to take place in urban or residential areas. It should only be permitted in dedicated sites that are located in industrial zones, and with a requirement that all gas that is used is recaptured. It was also calling for financial and other incentives that would ensure methyl bromide was phased out and replaced with a less toxic alternative that did not destroy the ozone layer.


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