ACSH gets an A (for Apples!) for unveiling NRDC-inspired Alar scare

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Rewind to the year 1984 when the EPA first announced that Alar, a plant growth regulator (NOT a pesticide), caused cancer in animals. Now fast-forward five years to 1989, the year that the agency proposed banning this chemical based on what the EPA perceived to be an unacceptably high cancer risk to humans as well. The decision may have had something to do with a 60 Minutes special that ran at the exact same time and was successful in scaring 50 million Americans about the alleged dangers of Alar.

ACSH is proud to say, however, that thanks to our hard work and unrelenting commitment to sound science, we were able to help uncover the truth about Alar: It never posed any health threats or an increased risk of cancer at the levels found on apples.

Once the flaws in the anti-Alar studies began to surface, prominent public health professionals confirmed our message about the safety of Alar, including former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, several U.N.-W.H.O. panels, the Chairman of the National Safe Kids Campaign and the senior medical advisor to the American Medical Association.

We were not surprised to learn that facts don’t concern Wendy Gordon, who wrote a recent article for the same “environmental” alarmist group — the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) — which promulgated the Alar scare in the first place (ironic?). Her piece in OnEarth Magazine continues to trumpet fears of Alar, underscoring that ACSH had a pivotal role in reiterating our “contention that Alar is not harmful to humans, that animal tests cannot prove a product’s carcinogenicity in humans, and that NRDC was crying wolf.” Ms. Gordon further comments that “ACSH had a clear goal and an effective strategy — ‘to impeach the credibility’ of environmentalists by systematically making the case that the ‘Alar Scare’ was a false alarm.” Well, Ms. Gordon, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves, and we’d like to take this moment to pat ourselves on the back for our own handiwork that you’ve so kindly pointed out.

She even cites a Columbia Journalism Review piece from 1996 by Eliot Negin, which concluded that, “In all, of the roughly eight articles, editorials, op-eds and book reviews that commented directly on whether Alar actually posed a risk, all but a handful present the Alar affair as much ado about nothing.” Thanks again, Wendy!

ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan says this resurrection of Alar comes as no surprise. “Here we are 22 years after the great Alar scare of 1989, and the self-appointed environmentalists still won’t admit that the science prevailed. They keep coming back, and they will continue to do so even though the editor of Science magazine himself came to the conclusion that the whole thing was a hoax. To this day, I still receive press calls about various public health topics and get asked, ‘Is it just another Alar scare?’”