O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how toxic are your branches? Christmas trees arriving by ship to the U.S. territory of Guam are getting a not-so-special enhancement: Doses of poisonous gas to kill any stowaway invasive species.
The climate on Guam is that of a tropical rainforest. Many types of evergreen trees don’t thrive there. But each year, thousands of fresh-cut pine trees find their way to the island of Guam. The trees bring joy and cheer and too often . . . bugs.
This year, the Guam Customs and Quarantine BioSecurity Task Force is filling containers of imported Christmas trees with odorless, colorless, methyl bromide gas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes methyl bromide as a toxic fumigant, a chemical that produces fumes. The gas helps control a wide range of agriculture and shipping pests—including fungi, weeds, insects, roundworms, and rodents.
Customs agents in Guam have already treated six shipping containers, each containing more than 2,500 imported trees, wreaths, and garlands. They expect to treat another seven containers in coming weeks, officials say.
Agents will release containers after a thorough inspection to ensure the treatment has done its job.
The Guam Invasive Species Council approved the Department of Agriculture’s fumigation policy in 2016. The measure sought to prevent unwanted pests from impacting Guam’s agriculture, natural resources, or the homes of Christmas celebrants.
(Mason Davis helps his family find a Christmas tree at Worthey Tree Farm in Amory, Mississippi, November 26, 2019. Adam Robison/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP)