05/16/2014 02:22 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2014

An Apple a Day... Could Give You Cancer?


Do you love apples? You might want to find a new favorite fruit. A new report from the Environmental Working Group found that 80 percent of apples are coated with a pesticide that's banned in Europe because it could be carcinogenic.

European regulators were so worried enough about the connection between diphenylamine and nitrosamines, a family of potent cancer-causing chemicals that they banned its use on apples and pears in June 2012.

In the United States, farmers treat conventionally-grown apples with the EU-banned pesticide -- commonly known as DPA -- after the harvest to prevent blackening or browning of fruit skin during cold storage.

European regulators worry that during this time, carcinogenic nitrosamines could be generated when DPA combines with nitrogen, an element that's common to our environment.

Tests of raw apples conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010 -- the most recent year for which data is available -- found DPA on 80 percent of apples tested, more often and at greater concentrations than other pesticide residues. They also found it in apple juice and applesauce.

The average concentration of DPA on U.S. apples is about .42 parts per million. In March of this year, the EU reduced the allowable level of DPA on imports to .1 part per million.

Considering Americans eat nearly 10 pounds per person of fresh apples every year, you would think that the Environmental Protection Agency would be up in arms, right? Wrong. According to Reuters, under the federal Food Quality Protection Act, the EPA is supposed to conduct a scientific assessment of pesticides every 15 years -- but it hasn't assessed DPA since the late 1990s.

Because of concerns about pesticides like DPA, apples have been at the top of the EWG's Dirty Dozen list in the Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce since it was first published more than a decade ago.

Facts like this make me mad. I grew up on "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." My most vivid grade-school history lesson centered around Johnny Appleseed. I believe that something can be "as American as apple pie," for goodness sakes.

Why should Americans eat apples coated with potentially carcinogenic chemicals, when Europe takes steps to make sure their apples are safe?

It just isn't fair. And it isn't right. But there's something we can do about it.

1. Try to buy USDA-Certified Organic apples, since they won't be treated with DPA or other pesticides.

2. Sign my petition to the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, asking them to follow the EU's lead and ban DPA on apples and pears.

3. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram -- wherever you can! Let's get parents talking about healthier apples!