Q:I thought you might like to know that sulfuryl fluoride is now being used as a fumigant for bulk food storage. The stuff leaves fluoride residue on the foods we eat. The Environmental Protection Agency had to increase the allowed fluoride levels of foods to permit it to happen. The science used was bogus. I saw the animal studies that Dow Chemical had to submit to the government to try to say it would be safe. In every single animal study, the animals suffered and many died. I’m curious if you knew about it before you wrote your recent article in The Chronicle.

A: I didn’t know it, and I would have mentioned it if I did. Now I do, and so do the thousands of people who read this column. It is my hope that with the new administration, we will have an Environmental Protection Agency that actually looks after the environment and not the pesticide special-interest groups.

The Fluoride Action Network (www.fluoridealert.org/f-pesticides.htm) tried to stop the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant. Here’s a quote from its Web site (under the Fluoride Pesticides heading): “Sulfuryl fluoride is the most immediate and important pesticide issue for the FAN Pesticide Project. This acutely toxic fumigant received its first-time approval for use on stored food commodities (raw and processed) in the U.S. in January 2004. This approval allows the highest levels of fluoride residue levels in food in the history of the EPA. FAN, together with Beyond Pesticides, submitted formal objections to EPA on this approval.”

Sulfuryl fluoride is being used because the United States agreed with other nations to stop using methyl bromide as a fumigant. In Europe they use other, far less toxic methods to fumigate bulk food storage. I will look into it further and report any more information I can find.

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See also: Sulfuryl fluoride: Termite Insecticide Found To Be Potent Greenhouse Gas