Bill McKay's recent letter "Dangerous fumigants shouldn't be allowed on P.E.I. soil" and the Journal Pioneer editorial "Environment before profits" prompted me to ask: What is Chloropicrin?
What I found out is not good; a trail of misinformation and missing information would be a way to describe it.
I found Chloropicrin on Wikipedia: Molecular weight, 164.4; melting point, -69 degrees C; boiling point, 112 degrees C; 3 chlorine atoms, 1 carbon atom, 1 nitrogen atom and 2 oxygen atoms; but nitrogen has four bonds, not three as normally seen, and one oxygen atom has only one bond and not the normal two; additionally there is a + sign near the nitrogen and a - sign next to the single bonded oxygen?
Was the +/- a dipole pair, which would mean that Chloropicrin would dissolve in the universal polar solvent, water?
Cornell says: "Chloropicrin is highly soluble in water with solubility of 2 grams per liter:" 1 part to 500; and then on Wikipedia I noticed that on the colour diagram of Chloropicrin the nitrogen has two + signs and each oxygen has a negative sign: meaning that Chloropicrin has a resonant structure. Why was the term resonant structure or pi bond not used?
The ring molecule benzene, the classic resonant structure, is a class I carcinogen. Ozone has a resonant structure too. Why not use ozone? At least ozone is a gas.
Going back to Cornell, looking under environmental fate, breakdown of Chloropicrin in soil and groundwater, we are assured that Chloropicrin breaks down and then in the citations we read three times, "Unpublished study submitted to USEPA."
The chemical is deposited six inches below the soil and breaks down photo-chemically, that is, with light. What if it's under a rock? What if it rains hard? What if it gets cold?
Under ecological effects: effects on birds, Cornell says: "Little information is available about the effects of Chloropicrin on bird life. A feeding study in chickens demonstrated no adverse effects at doses as high as 100 parts per million for 120 days." I suppose the chickens were still on their feet, hence no adverse effects. I'll bet those chickens couldn't reproduce and their livers were shot.
Under aquatic organisms we read: "Chloropicrin is toxic to fish." How would you guess lobster would fare?
Bill said the use of Chloropicrin on P.E.I. was an atrocity. The dictionary defines atrocity as savagely brutal, outrageously cruel or wicked. I would call this shotgun agriculture mixed with 'cooked' science: blow all life away and start again; brutal indeed. Savage and brutal and wicked.
Mount Stewart, P.E.I.