Daminozide (Alar, Kylar, B-NINE, DMASA, SADH, B 995) is a plant growth regulator, a chemical sprayed on fruit to regulate their growth, make their harvest easier, and enhance their color. First approved for use in the U.S. in 1963, it was primarily used on apples until 1989 when it was voluntarily withdrawn by the manufacturer after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed banning it based on unacceptably high cancer risks to consumers.
It has been produced in the U.S. by the Uniroyal Chemical Company, Inc, (now integrated into the Chemtura Corporation) 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 affects flow-bud initiation, fruit-set maturity, fruit firmness and coloring, preharvest drop and market quality of fruit at harvest and during storage. In 1989, it became illegal to use daminozide on food crops in the US, but it is still allowed for use on non-food crops like ornamentals.
The campaign to ban Alar
In 1986, concern developed in the U.S. public over the use of Alar on apples, over fears that the residues of the chemical 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 highlighting problems with Alar.
This followed years of background work. According to Environmental Working Group:
Prior to 1989, five separate, peer-reviewed studies of Alar and its chemical breakdown product, unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH), had found a correlation between exposure to the chemicals and cancerous tumors in lab animals. In 1984 and again in 1987, the EPA classified Alar as a probable human carcinogen. In 1986, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the EPA to ban it. Well before the 60 Minutes broadcast, public concern had already led six national grocery chains and nine major food processors to stop accepting apples treated with Alar. Washington State growers had pledged to voluntarily stop using it (although tests later revealed that many did not). Maine and Massachusetts had banned it outright.
In 1989, following the CBS broadcast, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to ban Alar on the grounds that "long-term exposure" posed "unacceptable risks to public health." However before the EPA's preliminary decision to ban all food uses of Alar went into effect, Uniroyal, the sole manufacturer of Alar, agreed in June 1989 to halt voluntarily all domestic sales of Alar for food uses.
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