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Consumer Reports applauds EPA for proposed ban of acephate, a harmful organophosphate pesticide linked to serious health problems

CR calls on the EPA to ban all organophosphate and carbamate pesticides on produce 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Under a proposed interim decision announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week, the organophosphate pesticide acephate would be banned on all foods. Consumer Reports praised the proposal today given the EPA’s research finding that high levels of exposure to the chemical can lead to neurological harm and called on the agency to ban all organophosphate and carbamate pesticides on food crops. CR has launched a petition urging the EPA to take that action.

“We’re encouraged that the EPA is taking steps to protect the public from a dangerous pesticide like acephate by banning its use on all food crops,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “Given the potential health risks this toxic chemical poses to human health, acephate should not be allowed on the food we eat.”

Ronholm continued, “Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and again that banning a single hazardous pesticide simply doesn’t go far enough to protect the public. Industry and farmers will likely shift over to another related chemical that may pose similar risks.”

CR recently conducted its most comprehensive review of pesticides in food by analyzing seven years of data from the Department of Agriculture, which tests a selection of conventional and organic produce grown domestically or imported to the U.S. CR’s review examined 59 common fruits and vegetables, including fresh, canned, dried, and frozen ones. Pesticides posed significant risks in 20 percent of the foods CR examined, including popular choices such as bell peppers, blueberries, green beans, potatoes, and strawberries.

Two classes of chemicals, organophosphates and carbamates, were responsible for most of this risk. Long term exposure to these pesticides has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurobehavioral issues, with additional health concerns for vulnerable populations like children, pregnant people, those with chronic illnesses, and farm workers.

“The vast majority of fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are already grown without hazardous pesticides,” said Ronholm. “It’s time to ban organophosphates and carbamates, the two classes of pesticides that pose the greatest risk to our health.”

CR’s recent review of pesticide risks also highlighted the need for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to step up its enforcement efforts to ensure produce is free of banned pesticides. Acephate has been banned on green beans for more than a decade and yet CR found alarmingly high levels of the pesticide or one of its breakdown products, methamidophos, on both domestic and imported samples, especially some from Mexico.

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org