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AZM Reign of Poisoning Ends

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View Kristen Boyles's blog posts
01 October 2013, 7:13 AM
More than 10 years of court fights rids fields of deadly pesticide
Blueberries were among the crops that saw the last remaining uses of the pesticide AZM. (Braker / Flickr)

Finally. Yesterday—Sept. 30—was the last day that the highly toxic pesticide AZM could be used in the United States. This pesticide, originally developed as a nerve gas, has been poisoning people, particularly farmworkers, and insects for decades.

AZM disrupts the nervous system and causes a range of temporarily debilitating responses—splitting headache, nausea, vomiting, uncontrollable sweats, blurry vision, dizziness, unconsciousness—and even such grave long-term effects as paralysis, and death.

It took more than 10 years of farmworker activism and legal proceedings to rid our country of this neurotoxic insecticide. AZM was last legally used on apples, cherries, pears, blueberries and parsley, with the highest uses occurring in Washington, Oregon, California, Michigan, and New York.

Finally, in 2004, farmworkers and environmental groups represented by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice sued the EPA for allowing the continued use of AZM. The agency settled, agreeing to consider alternatives. Two years later, the EPA announced that all uses of AZM would be canceled, yet the agency then allowed a six-year phase-out period for sale of AZM, and another year after that to allow use of AZM already purchased. We challenged the length of the phase-out, but courts ruled that our lawsuit came too late. Fortunately, AZM use declined over the years, particularly in California, as growers shifted to alternatives--but during that time it poisoned an unconscionable number of workers whose names remain unknown.

The final defeat of AZM came through the unrelenting efforts of citizens to hold their government accountable by bringing court cases to highlight egregious harm.

When the world changes, we all should sit up and take notice. Yesterday it did.

outstanding...just ahhhhhh....footprints and pictures (and cleaning up after yourself) is all we should leave or take

I am happy to hear this I have a grandson, that could not eat any of these fruit's due to allergic reaction I said all along it was the chemical's that where being used on them. Thank you for standing up for all of us against pesticides and there use's on our food's.

Now to get Monsanto and it's GMO's kicked off the planet!

I'm thrilled that this horrific pesticide is no longer in use and I praise the bravery of those who stood up to the chemical companies. However, the reporting here is a bit dodgy. What Chemical Company? How many worker became sick? How many died? When you say at the end "unconscionable number" and "whose names remaining known," it makes me wonder how you would know the numbers were unconscionable if you don't know any of the names. More specifics would be helpful.

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