The comment period for weighing in on a petition to ban the controversial chemical methyl iodide — an EPA-approved crop fumigant developed for strawberry production — is winding down this week. Those interested in weighing in on the issue have until April 30 to do so.

strawberriesmethyliodide-featured.jpgThe Environmental Protection Agency was petitioned last year by Earthjustice, on behalf of several other public health and farmworker NGOs, to revoke its 2007 approval of the fumigant because of serious human health concerns. Responding to increasing public interest in the topic, EPA eventually agreed to open up a formal docket for comments, even though it was not legally required to.

The comment period comes to an end just two weeks after a member of California’s State Legislature expressed their concern to top EPA officials about the chemical, which the $2 billion California strawberry industry insists is an important pest and disease management tool.

“Extensive scientific analyses have been conducted on methyl iodide and scientists have overwhelmingly concluded that the adverse health and environmental risks to public, worker, and environmental safety associated with this chemical are significant,” the assemblyman wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “Methyl iodide is a known carcinogen (Proposition 65 list), neurotoxin, and mutagen. Additionally, there is significant potential for contamination to groundwater. According to the chair of the Scientific Review Committee, Dr. John Froines, ‘there is no safe level of use for methyl iodide.’ “

Methyl iodide is not approved for use in New York or Washington state. A coalition of public health, environmental, and farm worker groups, including Earthjustice, is suing the state of California for its December 2010 approval of the chemical.

“We’re glad to see the Environmental Protection Agency taking this concrete first step toward repealing the last administration’s approval of this cancer-causing pesticide,” said Earthjustice attorney, Greg Loarie, in a statement last month.

The public can comment on the petition at, here.