EPA will phase out highly toxic pesticide

If you’ve been avoiding Brussels sprouts because of pesticide contamination — as opposed to the grossness — you’re in luck: by next year, the U.S. EPA plans to phase out organophosphate azinphos-methyl (AZM) on the odiferous buds, as well as on nuts and nursery stocks. By 2010, AZM would be banned completely, affecting growers of apples, blueberries, cherries, pears, and parsley. AZM, known by the trade name Guthion and used to kill codling moths, has been applied widely to crops since the late 1950s. In 2001, EPA research determined that apple pickers could not safely re-enter AZM-sprayed fields for 102 days; the agency then set the worker re-entry standard at 14 days. Farmworkers and enviros sued the EPA in 2004, saying the agency shouldn’t permit use of a chemical that could cause dizziness, vomiting, seizures, paralysis, loss of mental function, and death. AZM alternatives are “all more expensive on a per-acre basis,” says the director of a tree-fruit research center. “But they are all less toxic to humans.” Hmm, tough call.