Breaking news: Bayer to stop using MIC

January 11, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

We’ve got an early version of our story online now about the latest moves at the Bayer CropScience plant out in Institute. They bottom line:

Bayer CropScience announced this afternoon that it will stop making, storing and using the deadly chemical methyl isocyanate at its Institute plant as part of a corporate restructuring that will also cost the plant 220 jobs.

This comes after Bayer’s announcement in August 2009 that it would cut its MIC inventory by 80 percent, but according to company officials has far more to do with the August agreement between Bayer and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the phase-out of the extremely toxic pesticide aldicarb.

The changes at Institute are part of a corporate shift that also involves the closing of Bayer’s plant in Woodbine, Ga., which makes similar products. That facility employs 80 people.

Bayer’s formal press release explained things this way:

“The decision was based on a number of factors, with both strategic and economic considerations. It is fully in line with our global strategy to focus on delivering innovative solutions to modern agriculture and replacing older compounds in our portfolio, including WHO Class I products”, said Achim Noack, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer CropScience.

In recent years, the carbamate family has been largely substituted by newer products, prompting a review of the company’s carbamates business strategy. Following the August 2010 agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to phase out Temik® brand insecticide/nematicide, the production of certain carbamates is no longer economically viable for Bayer CropScience.

“Temik® has been the cornerstone of our carbamate manufacturing strategy,” said Chris Evans, Senior Vice President of Industrial Operations in North America for Bayer CropScience. “The decisions to exit Temik® and to discontinue our Methomyl and Carbofuran production, made it impossible to maintain competitive operations at parts of our Institute site and at the formulation unit at Woodbine.”

State and local officials are understandably focused on the loss of 220 good-paying jobs in the Kanawha Valley. Bayer officials did not announce an exact time-line for this, but said the jobs would gone within “several years.”

And undoubtedly, some folks will blame the job loss on environmental regulations, or perhaps more directly on area residents who have for years worried and complained about the stockpile of the same chemical that killed thousands of people in 1984 in Bhopal, India.

But Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper pointed out that Bayer agreed to the EPA phase-out of aldicarb, and said the better course of action now is to work with Bayer to find other tenants and job opportunities for the soon-to-be-vacant space in the Institute plant:

There is so much talk about clean coal and about developing byproducts of natural gas. The job of all of us should be to make appropriate use of that plant. We have to save as many jobs as we can.

9 Responses to “Breaking news: Bayer to stop using MIC”

  1. Marty Garinger says:

    These 220 jobs at Institute, plus the 80 jobs in Woodbine GA paid an average of $100,000 a year in wages and benefits to the workers who hold them. That is not counting the service companies and their employees who will be effected by the loss of these businesses at the Plant.

    After the unfortunate explosion in 2008, Bayer was in the process of rebuilding and expanding the pesticide business at Institute. They hired 50 new Employee’s to run the units. Then came the Chemical Safety Board with a investigation of the incident and renewed emphasis of the MIC at the Plant.

    That was followed up by a Congressional Hearing of the incident, championed by Senator Henry Waxman and our own Senator Jay Rockefeller. Bayer pulled the plug on the expansion, and did not even rebuild the Methomyl unit at the Plant. They stopped sending MIC to the West end of the Plant which ended up shutting down the FMC Carbofuran Unit.

    Finally came President Obama’s EPA with it’s Assault at Woodbine, Ga. Institute makes the activated ingredient to make Temik. The EPA made a baseless claim that they believed that Temik caused harm to infants and children. Do a Google search on Temik and you will find countless studies since the early 70’s that find no harm to the population from Temik. After thousands of tons of this pesticide were used to protect our food supply over the last 40 years, there would be no question whether or not there were health effects from it. The EPA used a debate that Bayer could not defend against. No company wants to be associated with something that the EPA says harms infants and children.

    The end result is hundreds of good paying jobs that cant be replaced. Let’s hope that is all it is because Bayer has another issue now, which is to try to pass the infrastructure costs of the site on to the remaining businesses units operating there. There is always the possibility that those businesses may not be economically able to shoulder the extra costs. If so, look for an addition 400 jobs to leave the site.

    The Institute site has produced millions of tons of Chemicals, and employed thousands of workers since the 1940’s. We may be seeing a sad end to what was an economic giant in the Kanawha Valley. And yes, it will be at the hands of the Environmentalists who do not care who gets run over to advance their ideological agenda. We have to protect our crops, and now we will have to find another chemical to do it. No one knows what effect that chemical will have on the population for years to come. Let’s hope it will be as kind to us as Temik was.

    To my brothers and sisters in the Oil, Gas, Coal, and Chemical Industry. This administrations EPA has their sights set on you too. Anything they can do to shut you down, they will. What they cant get accomplished through legislation, they will attempt to do through the Government Agencies with Obama’s appointments and Czars. This Democratic administration is not a friend of the working men and women of West Virginia. I hope we let them know this at the voting booth in 2012.

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Marty,

    Thanks for your comment … here’s a link to EPA’s science about Temik and aldicarb…. http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/aldicarb_fs.html

    Perhaps you could provide links to say 3 peer-reviewed papers that you believe show EPA has this science wrong … Thanks, Ken.

  3. Marty Garinger says:

    There is no need for a Peer review Kent. The fact is that the EPA’s report is proof enough in itself. There is no evidence what so ever in that report, that the use of Temik causes any harm to the general population. Even after 40 years and millions of tons of it were used on the food supply. There is nothing new in that report that has not been known in previous EPA studies of the chemical in the past. The only thing new, is this EPA’s opinion of it having POTENTIAL to be harmful to infants and children. That is not science. That is this current EPA’s opinion.

    I am not saying that the Carbamates that we produce at Institute are not hazardous chemicals. All Insecticides, Herbicides, Fungicides, etc that we use to improve our quality of life are extremely hazardous. They need to be handled responsibly. Yes, they also need to be monitored to make sure they are not harming us more than they are helping us. Carbamates have passed this test for 50 years. You still use Sevin dust in your gardens at home. Temik has been used for 40 years on potato’s, cotton, pecans, and many other crops. Today there is not a good alternative for the farmers that use Temik. Read this article.

    http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2010-08-24/removal-pesticide-temik-means-trouble-cotton-industry

    As i stated before, the replacement not only may not work as well, but in the future we may find out it is in fact more harmful to the environment than Temik. We have 6 billion people to feed in this world. It can’t be done without keeping the insects from destroying our crops. Carbamates have been doing the job for 50 years extremely well.

    I would like to use the following example of what i am talking about. The EPA ban of DDT. Remember that long ago? The banning of that chemical has resulted in the deaths of millions of people from Malaria. Read this article.

    http://www.eco-imperialism.com/content/article.php3?id=68

    The bottom line is that the hazardous chemicals we make and use everyday, make the peoples lives in this world better. We can’t live without them. The people in this world are living longer, more prosperous lives because of them. We need to quit demonizing them, and give them the credit they are due.

  4. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Marty,

    Thanks again for your comments … I would simply again ask that you show me with links to the literature or even citations to the section of the EPA report you mention that support your statement.

    Because the EPA Risk Assessment I read said that children under the age of 5 were found to ingest up to 800 percent of the levels of aldicarb that created a health concern. That’s on page 2 and 3 of this report, http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0163-0250

    I would also refer to the excellent reporting by Marla Cone on this issue here, http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/aldicarb-phaseout

    Thanks, Ken.

  5. Marty Garinger says:

    Sorry Ken, but the above references are nothing more than empty sheets of paper. Absolutely no evidence what so ever of any long term health effects from the use of this insecticide. The watermelon incident is old news of one instance where it was incorrectly handled by the grower. Even those that had the overexposure had no long term health effects from it. There are untold amounts of products that if ingested in too high of quantities from misuse will give you 24 hours of nausea/diarrhea. Too much alcohol on New Years eve is just one of them.

    Once again, i direct you back to the EPA and your others references to prove my point. 40 years of studies to try to prove that this product causes harm to the public from it’s proper use. Still can’t find any. So we will just ignore the evidence, say we think it has potential, and ban it.

    This overreaching, irresponsible action by the EPA will have an impact far beyond the jobs at Institute and Woodbine. Just go ask the farmers that use it for their crops. Who by the way, use well water for their families located very close to the fields that this insecticide has been used on for 40 years. Who have also handled this chemical to apply it to their crops for 40 years. Get their opinion. It will be much different from this EPA’s.
    That’s the real world scientific study. One that has been ignored by this current EPA.

    I think we have both made our points here Ken. We just have to agree to disagree about them.

  6. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Marty,

    Again … please point me to the specific passages that you believe support what you’re saying … page numbers or something? I’m starting to think you haven’t even read the EPA documents, given that you refuse to discuss what they say except to dismiss them.

    You’re certainly welcome to your views and opinions, but without you providing some evidence to support them, it’s terribly hard to take you seriously.

    In addition, as you well know, there are quite different models for deciding how to regulate chemicals (or other activities) … right now in the United States, we assume that materials are innocent until proven guilty. And, of course, it’s terribly difficult for science to ever prove that a particular exposure to a particular substance on a particular date in a particular amount CAUSED a particular health effect. Science doesn’t work that way, and most reasonable people understand that. But as a result, few things get regulated, and most chemicals used in our society haven’t even been studied in enough detail to draw any real conclusions.

    As Earthjustice points out here, http://earthjustice.org/blog/2010-june/cnns-toxic-childhood-dose-truth a major CNN broadcast about chemical regulation discussed this, and talked about another option: Requiring more testing and data about chemical BEFORE they’re allowed in the marketplace … making companies prove things are safe before they are marketed. That’s just an option for discussion.

    In any event, I still wait you pointing out parts of the EPA decision documents on aldicarb that say what you are saying they do …

    Thanks, Ken.

  7. Joe Stein says:

    Dear sirs,

    This conversation seems to be the most informative analysis of this issue I’ve yet run across, for which I thank you. I find Mr. Garinger’s position to be quiet convincing, but like Mr. Ward am troubled by the unwillingness to provide evidence; particularly the statement, “There is no need for a Peer review,” which seems indicative of a type of anti-intellectual thinking that is rooted in ideology not reason. I can only hope Mr. Garinger meant something along the lines of “in this case where the anecdotal evidence is so clear….” Such thinking would be casually understandable and so forgivable, but still I think not treating the issue with the seriousness it deserves. After all, Mr. Ward is only asking for evidence to be educated, what could be more reasonable?

    Be that as it may, I sense the real issue is not at all how dangerous this chemical is environmentally, reproductively, etc., but the fear that a disaster along the lines of Bhopal might be recreated where levels would be very much elevated likely leading (again) to tens of thousands of deaths, only this time in Institute, West Virginia.

    Perhaps the EPA is dishonestly coming at it from a round about direction; but sirs, speaking as a layman only hoping to be educated, is that fear a reasonable one or not? Phrased differently, why should the people of Institute feel safe that such a disaster is not waiting for them? I will remind you sirs, that Union Carbide who owned the plant in Bhopal India claims that accident was actually sabotage; so a discussion of safety features is certainly merited but incomplete without including discourse on security and terrorism. I eagerly await further information about this important and fascinating issue.

    My thanks,
    Mr. Joe Stein

  8. Marty Garinger says:

    Here are a few documents on Temik that were requested.

    http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/aldicarb.htm

    http://toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Aldicarb

    http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/insect-mite/abamectin-bufencarb/aldicarb/aldicarb_cfs_0492.html

    http://books.google.com/books?id=ib8Qhju9EQEC&pg=PA1108&lpg=PA1108&dq=studies+on+Temik+pesticide&source=bl&ots=DeJtl9Hmmh&sig=qih60ubrmeEzurAhN3Nn_z4lZHw&hl=en&ei=-J40Tb_rEMrDgQeE-sXGCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=studies%20on%20Temik%20pesticide&f=false

    All back up what i have stated all along. No long term health effects to Human’s, Animal’s, or aquatic life. Short term effects from mishandling and overexposure? Yes, but temporary in the controlled studies.

    There are many more like these that can be found by anyone with a simple Google search.

  9. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Marty,

    Thanks … let’s run through those one at a time …

    1. http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/aldicarb.htm

    This appears to be a 14-year-old fact sheet published by a project of the University of Oregon and other universities. It includes a list of references here, http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/reflist3.htm … Have you read those and if so, could you summarize the findings regarding dietary exposures, especially to children?

    2. http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/reflist3.htm

    This is another fact sheet, but it’s not clear from the site exactly who maintains it. The site outlines some of the more serious incidents involving exposure to aldicarb:

    — … In July of 1985 nearly two thousand people in Oregon and California became ill from eating contaminated watermelons …

    — Similar fates fell upon consumers in Nebraska, British Columbia, and California in the subsequent years

    The site writes off these incidents as being caused by “improper handling” of the substance, but does not offer any citations to support that claim.

    3. http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/insect-mite/abamectin-bufencarb/aldicarb/aldicarb_cfs_0492.html

    This is another “fact sheet” about the chemical, this one maintained by an educational program at Cornell University, http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/ . This one was issued in 1992 … I’m wondering if you have any more up-to-date science on this topic or if your “google” searches simply picked up the older material.

    Interestingly, though, I wonder if you read this part of this particular reference:

    Second, evidence submitted by Rhone-Poulenc shows that there is a likelihood that residues above the tolerance level would result following aldicarb applications at the established use rates. Finally, EPA is concerned about the potential risk of poisoning to the U.S. population
    consuming bananas containing aldicarb residues at levels up to those found in the market basket survey. Aldicarb poisoning results in neurotoxicity which is manifested in humans by a range of symptoms that can include malaise, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness, sweating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

    4. http://books.google.com/books?id=ib8Qhju9EQEC&pg=PA1108&lpg=PA1108&dq=studies+on+Temik+pesticide&source=bl&ots=DeJtl9Hmmh&sig=qih60ubrmeEzurAhN3Nn_z4lZHw&hl=en&ei=-J40Tb_rEMrDgQeE-sXGCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=studies%20on%20Temik%20pesticide&f=false

    This is a page from a google book version of the 2001 book, Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology. It describes the belief that many scientists held at one time that carbamate pesticides were OK because they might have fewer health impacts than organophosphates.

    What I keep wondering, Marty, is if you have read the EPA decision document that led to this agreement between EPA and Bayer … it’s posted here, http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0163-0250 … and summarizes what that agency that is charged by Congress with regulating this materials believes the current science shows about aldicarb.

    Could you point to specific sentences or paragraphs or pages or conclusions — or anything specific — in this EPA document that you believe is not supported by the peer-reviewed science, and then provide us a link to the peer-reviewed studies that you believe support your view in that regard?

    What evidence, for example, do you have — if any — to show that EPA was wrong to conclude that children under the age of 5 were found to ingest up to 800 percent of the levels of aldicarb that created a health concern.

    In addition, just to be clear, your initial comment said this:

    “Do a Google search on Temik and you will find countless studies since the early 70’s that find no harm to the population from Temik.”

    First, you have not provided links to any “studies,” only to easily-to-google fact sheets and the like. Do you follow the peer-reviewed literature on these issues?

    Second, you’re changing what you’re arguing … you initially said the studies show “no harm” from Temik, but now you’re saying “no LONG TERM health effects.” Which is it?

    Thanks, Ken.

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