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Environment

Bayer Vows To Drop Methyl Isocyanate

by Jeffrey W. Johnson
January 17, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 3

The Bayer CropScience pesticide plant near Charleston, W.Va., will phase out production of methyl isocyanate (MIC) over the next 18 months. The decision follows a 2008 plant accident that killed two workers and blasted debris within 80 feet of a large, aboveground MIC storage tank. MIC is an extremely toxic intermediate used to make pesticides, and many Charleston residents have pressed for its phaseout at the Bayer plant. The facility is the only industrial-scale MIC user in the U.S., and following the 2008 accident, an investigation by the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) put more pressure on Bayer to cut MIC storage. In 2009, the company agreed to reduce MIC inventory by 80% and end aboveground storage; it has since undertaken an overhaul of the MIC facility, which is slated to restart within the next weeks. However, last week, plant officials said they would phase out MIC use due to “strategic and economic considerations” mostly prompted by its 2010 agreement with EPA to phase out aldicarb insecticide. Other pesticides will also be affected by the closure. The announcement comes within a week of a Charleston community meeting where CSB will release its final report on the 2008 accident. The change will result in the layoff of 220 workers at the Charleston plant and another 100 at Bayer’s Woodbine, Ga., formulation facility.

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