- Yonkers, New York (ENS) - Even a single daily serving
of some produce can deliver unsafe levels of toxic pesticide residues for
young children, the Consumers Union said today.
- In a comprehensive study based on U.S. Department of
Agriculture data, the organization, which publishes the monthly Consumer
Reports magazine, found seven popular fruits and vegetables - apples, grapes,
green beans, peaches, pears, spinach, and winter squash - have toxicity
scores up to hundreds of times higher than the rest of the foods analyzed.
- Though virtually all the foods tested were within legal
limits, those limits are often at odds with what the government considers
safe for young children. Based on this analysis, Consumers Union will ask
the Environmental Protection Agency to restrict or ban specific pesticide
uses that expose children to residues above safe limits.
- Just one insecticide, methyl parathion, accounts for
most of the total toxicity of the foods analyzed, and its use is increasing
on crops such as apples and green beans, the Consumers Union study found.
Two out of five young children who eat a U.S. grown peach will get too
much methyl parathion.
- Fruits and vegetables analyzed were domestic and imported,
fresh and processed. The organization analyzed the results of the testing
done between 1994 and 1997 on 27 food categories, covering about 27,000
samples. A sample is about five pounds of produce.
- Residue testing was done after samples were prepared
as they usually are at home. Oranges and bananas were peeled, apples and
peaches were rinsed.
- "Our findings certainly don't mean that parents
should stop giving their children plenty of healthful produce," said
Dr. Edward Groth, technical policy and public service director at Consumers
Union, "but these findings do suggest that parents might want to be
careful about the amounts and types of fruits and vegetables they serve
- The study found that domestic produce had more, or more
toxic, pesticides than imported produce in two-thirds of the cases where
imports were tested.
- There are vast differences in the pesticide residues
that different fresh foods contain. In general, processed foods had lower
residues than fresh.
- Aldicarb, the most acutely toxic pesticide, is making
a comeback in potato production, the study found.
- DDT and other pesticides banned for decades, including
the carcinogen dieldrin, still show up regularly in residue tests. There
is a 77 percent chance that a serving of winter squash delivers too much
of a banned pesticide to be safe for a young child, the study found. Dieldrin
can't be washed off.
- The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
says methyl parathion, the most frequently found pesticide in the Consumer
Reports analysis, is commonly used on soybeans and vegetables.
- "If you are exposed to methyl parathion or other
toxic pesticides, you may have headache, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, chest
tightness, blurred vision, and restlessness. Symptoms that might mean an
exposed person's condition is getting worse include muscle twitching, weakness,
tremor, lack of coordination, excess sweating, abdominal cramps, vomiting,
and diarrhea," the Agency says.
- Severe exposure can lead to convulsions, unconsciousness,
cardiac arrest, and death. People who are exposed to significant amounts
over time may have a persistent lack of appetite, weakness, and malaise.
Swallowing, inhaling, and having skin contact with methyl parathion are
all ways in which people can be exposed. The Agency says children and the
elderly are especially at risk.
- Children eat far more produce per pound of body weight
than adults and are more sensitive to the effects of pesticides because
their nervous systems are changing and developing rapidly. Some pesticides
are suspected of causing cancer, and some may interfere with endocrine
- In 1993, the National Academy of Sciences issued a major
report on pesticides in children's diets, which recommended that U.S. pesticide
laws be overhauled to make foods safer for children. That report triggered
unanimous passage in 1996 of the Food Quality Protection Act, which requires
the Environmental Protection Agency review all pesticides and tighten exposure
limits to make them safer for young children.
- Parents should not stop serving fruits and vegetables
to their children, the Consumers Union recommends. Instead, the organization
advises buying organically grown produce. When Consumer Reports tested
organic produce in 1998, researchers found little or no toxic pesticide
- If organic foods are not available, or are too costly,
parents can avoid giving children large amounts of the foods with the highest
- Peel those foods with a high toxicity score, such as
apples, peaches, and pears. Washing with a very diluted dishwashing detergent
also helps and is also important for green, leafy vegetables, the group
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- What Toxic Pesticides Are Used Near Your Kid's School?
- SAN FRANCISCO - As the population of California and its
agricultural industry continue to expand, more and more children attend
schools near farm fields where toxic pesticides are applied heavily. Now
concerned parents, teachers and students can use the Internet to find out
what pesticides are being used, and where.
- A new Web site called @Risk ("at risk") reports
-- county by county and school by school -- all toxic pesticides used within
1.5 miles of California schools in 1995, the latest year for which data
are available. @Risk, a project of the Environmental Working Group, is
- With a few clicks of a mouse, @Risk shows how many pounds
of toxic pesticides were applied near any school in California, crops the
pesticides were used on, and adverse health effects of exposure to the
chemicals. @Risk, based on a computer analysis of state pesticide use
data, can also tell you where a school ranks statewide and in its home
county in terms of nearby use of pesticides.
- "When we send our kids to school, we assume they'll
be in a safe and healthy environment," said Bill Walker, California
director of EWG. "The use of toxic pesticides near schools doesn't
necessarily mean students are being exposed, but parents do have a right
to know about potential threats to their children's health. We're not trying
to single out individual schools as unsafe, but showing how the rising
use of pesticides increases the risks for everyone living, working or attending
- California has the nation's most comprehensive pesticide
use reporting law. requiring every commercial pesticide application to
be reported to the state. @Risk makes this information available online
for the first time and organizes it so that users can easily determine
where pesticides are being used. @Risk will soon be expanded to include
information about other toxic air pollutants emitted near California schools.
- EWG is a non-profit research organization that uses information
technology to inform the public about environmental threats to local communities.
EWG's main Web site, which includes databases on issues ranging from toxic
waste in fertilizer to political campaign contributions by polluting industries,
is at <http://www.ewg.orgwww.ewg.org.
- Bill Walker, California director Environmental Working
Group P.O. Box 29201, The Presidio San Francisco, CA 94129 (415) 561-6698
/ Fax (415) 561-6696