(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2011) Under pressure from lab results showing arsenic in apple juice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and New York state officials inspected a Williamson, NY Mott’s apple products plant for the toxic metal on July 26, 2011. While the lab tests commissioned by the Rochester-based Empire State Consumer Project examined several brands of apple juice and apple sauce, Mott’s Apple Juice stood out, with one sample registering 55 parts per billion of arsenic, five times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) legal limit (tolerance level) for drinking water. While no longer used in U.S. orchards, arsenic-based pesticides are still used on food crops in some countries, including China.
“This is not the first time high levels of arsenic have been found in apple juice,” said Judy Braiman, executive director of the Empire State Consumer Project. “It is past time for the FDA to set a limit on a toxic substance like arsenic with long term health effects in the juice that kids drink.”
Two-thirds of apple juice that Americans consume ””more than 400 million gallons annually”” comes from China. The Empire State Consumer Project and Food & Water Watch sent a letter to FDA calling on the agency to take long overdue action on contamination of apple juice with heavy metals such as arsenic. Currently, there is no legal limit for arsenic in juice. To protect your family from contaminated apple juice, Beyond Pesticides recommends organic apple products.
Arsenic has been linked to a number of health effects. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen. Several studies have shown that arsenic can increase the risk of lung, skin, bladder, liver, kidney, and prostate cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and EPA have determined that arsenic is a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence from human data. High levels of arsenic in the body can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, blood vessel change, or death and can damage many tissues including nerves, stomach and intestines. In 2008, Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered that arsenic may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, arsenic-based pesticides were common in U.S. agriculture. Their use declined some following World War II and the introduction of organochlorines and DDT. Many of the arsenic-based pesticides identified as the most hazardous by EPA, those containing inorganic arsenic, were phased out by the 1980s (with the exception of wood preservatives). After completing its Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) for the organic arsenical pesticides MSMA, DSMA, CAMA and cacodylic acid in 2006, EPA began phasing out these pesticides as well. However, after push back from the chemical industry and conventional, chemical-intensive growers, EPA extended the use of MSMA on golf courses, sod farms, and highway rights-of-way until December 31, 2012, with use of existing stocks permitted through 2013.
The inorganic arsenical wood preservative chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is still in use. Although, as of January 2004, most residential uses of this arsenic-based wood preservative can no longer be manufactured for decks and patios, picnic tables, playground equipment, walkways/boardwalks, landscaping timbers, or fencing- already existing residential CCA-treated wood and structures may continue to be used. Industrial uses, such as utility poles, continue to be manufactured and put workers and the public at risk. The major source of contamination in surface waters and groundwater is wastewater from wood preserving facilities. Individuals living or working near wood preserving facilities are exceptionally susceptible to being exposed to surface water or groundwater, increasing their exposure and risk. These preservatives are also known to leach from previously treated wood. Children are also at risk if they put their unwashed hands in their mouths after touching soil or wood that is contaminated with these preservatives. As a result, public and environmental health continues to be compromised.
For more information on CCA, see Beyond Pesticides’ Wood Preservatives program page.