Methyl iodide is often used by strawberry farmers and may be toxic.

California’s state officials may have ignored warnings coming from their own scientists when they approved the use of the chemical pesticide methyl iodide, according to a recent article published by California Watch.

The scientists have submitted an official protest, warning that the pesticide – which is often used by strawberry growers – may cause brain damage in developing fetuses.

The decision for approval was not based on the science, they charged. Their recommendation that farm workers should not be exposed to more than a trace amount to the pesticide was dismissed by the state official in charge as “excessive and difficult to enforce,” according to internal documents.

The chemical fumigant methyl iodide was approved in December 2010.

A coalition of environmental and farm-worker groups has sued the state to try to ban the chemical.

As part of the suit, the groups asked the Department of Pesticide Regulation to release documents explaining how the agency decided to approve the chemical.

The plaintiffs wanted to know how the agency had settled on exposure levels more than 100 times higher than what scientists within the agency believed were safe.

Scientists worried that methyl iodide could drift up from strawberry fields and be inhaled by pregnant farm workers or children playing nearby, causing subtle effects such as IQ loss, which might never be detected or traced back to the chemical.

“DPR has no benchmark with which to establish the limits of exposures that could be deemed as ‘safe’ for pregnant women and children living in agricultural communities or attending schools adjacent to fields where methyl iodide will be applied,” one of the experts said.

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