June 24, 2018

EWG Looks at EU Banned Chemical Used on U.S. Apples

Environmental Working Group is asking the U.S. government to put a stop to a chemical used on non-organic apples grown in America because its makers in Europe could not show it didn’t pose a rise to human health. That analysis found that the chemical, called diphenylamine, known as DPA, is used to coat apples during storage to prevent “storage scald”, brown or black patches, since the fruit is only harvested once a year.

ApplesA study conducted by the USDA in 2010 found that 80% of non-organic apples were coated with¬†DPA. American apple growers say that DPA is a “benign growth regulator”, but European officials have banned the use of DPA on apples and other fruit since 2012. Apples are one of the “dirty dozen” fruits and veggies EWG suggests consumers should avoid when grown conventionally with pesticides and herbicides.

One of the concerns about DPA is that nitrosamines, a family of carcinogens, are found on DPA-treated fruit. Nitrosamines form when nitrogen-containing compounds combine with amines. A 1998 EPA review found a “small quantity” of nitrosamine as an impurity in a sample of DPA.¬†Americans eat about 10 pounds of raw apples per person per year, so even low levels of nitrosamines on the fruit could pose a health risk.

DPA is sprayed on fruit after it’s harvested, so it is on apples at greater concentrations than other pesticides, which are used as the fruit grows on the tree. The compound is regulated as a pesticide, even though it doesn’t kill fungi, weeds, or insects. While the EPA and WHO found that long-term exposure to the chemical was “unlikely to prevent a public health concern”, European regulators say that the absence of evidence of harm is caused by poor investigation.

European regulators asked the company that makes DPA for test data on whether nitrosamines form when DPA is stored for a long time, when DPA-treated fruit is stored for long periods of time, or when DPA-treated fruit is processed into juices, purees, and sauces. The company could not provide what regulators considered “sufficient information” and their information had many data gaps.

EWG has also found that, even though the EPA must review pesticides every 15 years according to the federal FOod Quality Protection Act, the government hasn’t studied DPA since 1998. The group wants to see the EPA immediately review DPA using the latest scientific techniques to determine if it poses a risk to human health.

 

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