Chemicals coat apples decades after Alar scare
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More than two decades after parents dumped apples from children's lunch boxes because of concerns about a chemical applied to the fruit, most researchers agree the crop is safer although most of it still carries pesticide residue. Growers saw prices plunge after a 1989 television report led to widespread fears apples were coated in a cancer-causing chemical called Alar, used to enhance crunch and color. The public outcry led the government to ban some chemicals and increase oversight, while growers adopted new approaches to spraying apples and reduced the use of harsh chemicals. But in 2005, the last year results were avai lable, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found pesticide residues on 98 percent of the apples it tested. All the residue was at levels within federal guidelines. Such statistics leave consumer groups and health experts conflicted. "The mix of pesticides today is less toxic than it was 20 years ago," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president for policy at the Washingto n , D.C.-based Environmental Working Group. "But we still have a lot of pesticides left over. I think we're due for another look at whether we're doing the best we can to protect the public from pesticides in food."