Of Apples and Alar

Letter to the Editor
Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
The Washington Post (January 13, 1998)

The Post's excellent editorial "Hamburgers and Free Speech" [Jan. 5] contains an erroneous and misleading statement. In referring to removal from the market of the apple chemical, Alar, the editorial described the episode as a "scare" that was "later determined to be unfounded." In fact, the Alar episode was based on solid science.

Multiple rodent studies conducted both before and after the withdrawal of Alar showed unequivocally that Alar is carcinogenic. Two degradation products of Alar also are carcinogenic. One product, a dimethyl hydrazine, was known as a cancer hazard at the time of the CBS broadcast revealing the Alar hazard. A second product, dimethylnitrosamine, was found later to be a very potent carcinogen. Moreover, it was shown that infants and children drink more apple juice per pound of body weight than do adults and that young rodents are much more susceptible than adults to nitrosoamine carcinogens.

A District of Columbia court and the Supreme Court both rejected a suit by the apple growers against CBS, claiming that Alar was not a threat to health. The Columbia Journalism Review reported these events in its September-October, 1996, issue.

Alar was a hazard to children. We are better off without it.



New York

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