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Report: Growers Still Using Large Amounts of Dangerous Pesticide

Sep 1, 2004 | AP

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 a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Chlorpyrifos, also known as lorsban, has been tied to lung cancer in an ongoing national study that began in 1994, The Wenatchee World reported Monday.

``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 newspaper.

Growers applied 270,300 pounds of chlorpyrifos to apples, sweet cherries and pears in the state last year, according to the USDA report, released early this month. That accounts for nearly 74 percent of the nationwide total used on those fruits.

Dansereau said household use of chlorpyrifos was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2000. She pointed to studies linking the chemical with neurological or nerve damage.

``A primary reason cited by the (EPA) in clamping down in residential use is children's health,'' Dansereau said. ``There is substantial evidence that it poses high risks for both (farm)workers and their children.''

Michael Alavanja, principal investigator of the 10-year-old, $20 million national Agricultural Health Study, announced at a Pacific Northwest Pesticide Issues Conference in Yakima in February that chlorpyrifos is one of seven pesticides with a ``significant association'' to lung cancer.

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.

Tim Smith, a professor with Washington State University-Chelan County Extension in Wenatchee, said Washington's figures are high because the chemical is sprayed on dormant fruit trees.

Mayer said chlorpyrifos is important to growers because it helps prevent leaf rollers and scale.

``Growers are monitoring their pest population so they know when a particular pest is at its most vulnerable,'' Mayer said.

The monitoring allows growers to achieve maximum efficiency with lower rates of application.

In 2003, 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, the USDA found.

In 2000, use of chlorpyrifos on apples was restricted to pre-bloom. Elizabeth Beers, an entomologist at the Tree Fruit Research Center in Wenatchee, said it's not surprising that usage has remained constant since those restrictions were made.

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