The EPA announced cancellation of Alar on food products on this day in 1989

Word of the Day – Monday, November 7th



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ALAR (AY-luhr)

1. Resembling or having wings

2. A growth-regulating chemical sprayed on fruit trees

Common clues: Banned apple spray; Having wings; Controversial orchard spray; Winglike; Apple application, once; Wing-shaped; Apple application, once

Crossword puzzle frequency: 10 times a year

Frequency in English language: 65750 / 86800

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Video: Hummingbirds in slow motion

Leonardo DaVinci’s “Mechanical Wing”

A wing is a surface used to produce an aerodynamic force normal to the direction of motion by traveling in air or another gaseous medium, facilitating flight. It is a specific form of airfoil. The first use of the word was for the foremost limbs of birds, but has been extended to include the wings of insects, bats and pterosaurs and also man-made devices.

A wing is an extremely efficient device for generating lift. Its aerodynamic quality, expressed as a Lift-to-drag ratio, can be up to 60 on some gliders and even more. This means that a significantly smaller thrust force can be applied to propel the wing through the air in order to obtain a specified lift.

Daminozide (trade name Alar) is a pesticide sprayed on apples to regulate their growth, make their harvest easier, and enhance their color. It was primarily used on apples, and was registered with the FDA from 1963 to 1989 -- when it was banned in response to public fears over a controversial study which found that Alar residue could produce tumors in mice.

It is produced in the U.S. by Uniroyal, which registered daminozide (or Alar) for use on fruits intended for human consumption in 1963. In addition to apples and ornamentals, it was also registered for use on cherries, peaches, pears, Concord grapes, tomato transplants and peanut vines. On fruit trees, daminozide affected flow-bud initiation, fruit-set maturity, fruit firmness and coloring, preharvest drop and market quality of fruit at harvest and during storage.

In 1986, concern developed in the U.S. public over the use of Alar on apples, over fears that the residues of the pesticide detected in apple juice and applesauce might harm people. The outcry led some manufacturers and supermarket chains to announce they would not accept Alar-treated apples.

In February, 1989 there was a broadcast by CBS's 60 Minutes highlighting a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council claiming that Alar was a dangerous carcinogen. In 1989, following the CBS broadcast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided to ban Alar on the grounds that "long-term exposure" posed "unacceptable risks to public health."

Peter Montague wrote:

"Laboratory animals were exposed to high doses of Alar and UDMH, to see if high doses would produce cancers. [Critics of the study argued that] for humans to be exposed to equivalent high doses, they would have to eat a box-car-load of apples each day." Apple growers in Washington filed a libel suit against CBS, NRDC and Fenton Communications, claiming the scare cost them $100M. The suit was dismissed in 1994.

While Alar has been verified as a human carcinogen, the amount necessary for it to be dangerous may well be absurdly high. While the lab tests that prompted the scare required an amount of Alar equal to over 5000 gallons (20,000 L) of apple juice per day, Consumers Union ran its own studies and estimated the human lifetime cancer risk to be between 5 - 50 per million (1 case per million is the threshold at which the government considers a carcinogen a significant public health concern).

Elizabeth Whelan and her organization, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) worked to establish a narrative of the Alar episode as a scare. The ACSH claimed that Alar and its breakdown product UMDH had not been shown to be carcinogenic. Whelan's campaign was so effective that today, Alar scare is shorthand among news media and food industry professionals for an irrational, emotional public scare based on propaganda rather than facts.

The Alar scare also prompted the introduction of food libel laws in 13 states.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Daminozide"and “Wing.