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Fruit Growers Still Using Large Amounts of Dangerous Pesticide
(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2004)
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that apple, cherry and pear growers in Washington state continue to use large amounts of a pesticide that may be linked to lung cancer and nerve damage. According to the report, which was released earlier this month, growers applied 270,300 pounds of chlorpyrifos to apples, sweet cherries and pears in the state last year. That accounts for nearly 74 percent of the nationwide total used on those fruits. The report also stated that chlorpyrifos was used on 63 percent of the state's apple crops, 57 percent of the sweet cherry crops and 42 percent of the pear crops.

Chlorpyrifos was phased-out for household use by the US Environmental Protection Agency because of its neurotoxic effects (particularly to children), under a June 2000 agreement with Dow AgroSciences, the pesticide's manufacturer. Chlorpyrifos belongs to the family of organophosphate pesticides. Organophosphates are a highly toxic class of pesticides that affects the central nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Symptoms of exposure include: numbness, tingling sensations, headache, dizziness, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, incoordination, convulsions, and fatality. A 1996 study of children exposed to chlorpyrifos in utero found that extensive and unusual patterns of birth defects, including brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, palate, teeth, heart, feet, nipples, and genitalia.

"It is definitely a concern that chlorpyrifos continues to be used in such large quantities in the state," Carol Dansereau, executive director of the Farm Worker Pesticide Project in Seattle, told The Wenatchee World. In Washington state, the amount used on the three crops was about the same as in 2001, the last time the USDA surveyed growers on chemical use.

TAKE ACTION: When buying your produce, try and look for organic alternatives. To learn more about organic options, visit Beyond Pesticides' organic food section. For information on farmworkers and pesticides, contact Beyond Pesticides. We also recommend visiting the Farmworker Justice Fund website for more information.