Researchers Seek Emergency Ban on Toxic Insecticide

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, February 1, 1999

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 -- Ten years after a consumer revolt against apples treated with the carcinogen Alar prompted a ban on the chemical, children are no better protected from pesticides in the nation's food supply, according to government data on the pesticides most often found in kids' favorite foods. A new study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows apples, as well as some other fruits and vegetables, are so contaminated parents should consider substituting items known to be lower in pesticides.

EWG also called on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner to immediately ban the use of one highly toxic insecticide that poses short-term risks to small children.

The group said an emergency cancellation of the bug killer methyl parathion is needed because hundreds of thousands of preschoolers are exceeding government-established safety limits for the pesticide every day, mostly through consumption of apples and peaches. EWG recommended that until methyl parathion is banned, parents shift from apples and peaches to other fresh fruits for preschoolers.

The EWG analysis follows on the heels of similar concerns raised about pesticides in foods last week by Consumer Reports magazine. On Tuesday, EWG ran a full-page ad in the New York Times warning of pesticide risks in children's foods, and urging consumers to once again make their voices heard.

"Consumers revolted in 1989 when the news media revealed that government scientists knew Alar was a potent carcinogen, but under pressure from the manufacturer allowed the chemical to stay on the market," said Ken Cook, president of EWG and an author of the report. "Today, nothing's changed: Children's foods are contaminated with unsafe levels of numerous pesticides. The government knows this, and is dragging its heels