Just as the growing season heads toward its peak in many countries, we are learning bad news about the citrus industry. The Environmental Working Group has shared an article with alarming findings about hormone-distrupting fungicides on most of the citrus samples they tested. Authors Alexis Temkin, PhD, Sydney Evans, and Olga Naidenko, PhD suggested the best approach is to eat organic citrus whenever possible.
The two hormone-disrupting fungicides, imazalil and thiabendazole , were detected on nearly 90 percent of non-organic citrus fruit samples in tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group. More than half of the samples contained both fungicides.
Both chemicals disrupt the body’s hormones, or endocrine system, which regulates metabolism, growth, and development, and other important functions. They can also harm the reproductive system, and California scientists classify one of them as a chemical known to cause cancer.
The average concentration of imazalil detected in all fruits tested was about 20 times the amount that EWG scientists recommend as a limit to protect children against increased risk of cancer.
For thiabendazole, more research is needed to determine a safe limit for children’s health. (See details in Methodology.)
In California alone, more than 35,000 pounds of imazalil were applied in 2017, predominantly on oranges grown in Fresno, Kern, Santa Clara, Tulare and Ventura counties.
Imported samples were even worse than US-grown samples
The average amount of imazalil on imported samples was more than four times the amount found on US-grown samples, though three imported samples contained no detectable pesticide residues. The amounts of thiabendazole on domestic and imported samples were similar, except for one imported clementine sample, which contained the highest level.
The increased travel and storage time required to import products could explain the difference. Average levels of imazalil found on imported tangerines were higher than those of domestic samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 2011 and 2012 and in 2019, but that was not the case for more than 700 orange samples tested by the USDA in 2016.
EWG believes pesticides linked to cancer and hormone disruption should not be found on popular fruits that children eat. In 2019, EWG submitted official comments urging the EPA to reevaluate the use of these fungicides for post-harvest application on citrus, in light of potential harm to children’s health. More recently, EWG called on President Joe Biden to ban or restrict a number of harmful pesticides, including imazalil.
See this important full report from the Environmental Working Group here.