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Banned pesticide, others found on Washington State apples

For Immediate Release: 
Saturday, April 1, 2000

WASHINGTON, DC- March 2000 - Despite an August ban by the federal government on an apple pesticide, recent tests of State of Washington apples show dangerous levels of the bug killer and other agriculture chemicals on the fruit.

Tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group and conducted by an independent laboratory indicate that two in 25 apples have pesticide levels so hazardous that a two year-old eating half an apple or less would exceed the government’s daily safe exposure level. A total of eight pesticides were found, including one, endosulfan, that has been recommended for a ban by the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Federal regulators are expected to take action in the next month to protect children from a third pesticide, chlorpyrifos (a.k.a. Dursban) that was also found on Washington apples.

Apples, the number one fruit consumed by children, are a focus of the nation’s current pesticide control efforts stemming from the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act. The Act requires EPA to ensure that all pesticides on food and in the environment are safe for infants and children. Washington state accounts for 60 percent of the nation’s apple supply and a significant share of the nation’s $300 billion apple export market — mostly to Canada, Mexico and Pacific Rim nations.

EWG’s results closely track those found by the US Department of Agriculture’s most recent testing of apples, conducted in 1996. USDA has not tested any apples since that time, leaving consumers completely in the dark about residues in this important children’s food. Even the results of the 1996 testing were not released until 1998. Similarly, results from apple samples collected by the USDA this fall and winter will not be released until 2001. This delay undermines any value this information could have to consumers.

Methyl parathion, one of the organophosphate class of pesticides, was banned from apples by the EPA last summer, which did little to affect residues of that chemical on fruit that was on trees when the announcement was made. Consumers are still eating the last of that crop, and will do so until the 2000 crop is available on store shelves next fall.

EWG found the bug killer at unsafe levels in two of 25 bags of Washington state apples purchased at Seattle area stores – slightly less than the rate the government found in its most recent tests of the 1996 apple crop. One bag of apples went over EPA’s safety limit by a factor of 10.

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