Children At Risk
From Pesticides On
Fruits & Vegetables

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 their children."
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 activity.
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 residues.
If organic foods are not available, or are too costly, parents can avoid giving children large amounts of the foods with the highest toxicity scores.
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 advises. __________
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What Toxic Pesticides Are Used Near Your Kid's School? 11-7-99
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 at <
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 school nearby."
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 <
Bill Walker, California director Environmental Working Group P.O. Box 29201, The Presidio San Francisco, CA 94129 (415) 561-6698 / Fax (415) 561-6696