State puts limits on a pesticide used for strawberries, other crops

California farmers must restrict their use of a tear gas-like pesticide applied to strawberries and other crops under new rules designed to protect farmworkers and people who live, work and go to school near agricultural fields.

The state Department of Pesticide Regulation on Wednesday announced the nation's strictest limits on chloropicrin, a chemical that many farmers inject into the soil of strawberries, raspberries, almonds and other valuable crops. Hundreds of people have suffered respiratory ailments, skin irritation and headaches from the pesticide when it has leaked into the air in recent years, according to agency officials, who say use of the chemical has been increasing.

While growers complained the restrictions could drive up costs and the price of produce, health advocates said they do not go far enough to protect the public from ill effects.

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