ALLERGIES: SPRAY RESIDUES

In order to further study the question of spray residues and their effect on health, I asked three of my patients to take part in an experiment. Each of them was known to be susceptible to a wide range of chemicals. I invited them to my office for a peach-eating session, using fruit from the local market. After eating these commercial peaches, one patient developed a rash, with itching, burning and stinging, and the formation of red wheals (urticaria). The second had a frightening attack of asthma. The third developed a headache. To make the test complete, similar-looking peaches were obtained from an abandoned orchard where the fruit grew wild, unblessed by the exterminator’s spraygun.

After an interval, the three were given some of these peaches, without their being identified as unsprayed fruit. To these items they had no reaction at all: they tolerated them perfectly well. In the following season, I tested 15 more patients in a more elaborate experiment which was mentioned briefly in the previous chapter. I obtained four lots of peaches, all of the same type, but each treated quite differently. The first were picked from trees in an abandoned orchard, having received no sprays, fungicidal treatment, or fertilization for the previous three years. The second lot were the same as the first, except that they had been manually dusted with sulfur as an antifungus measure. The third were from one of the University of Illinois plots which had received the recommended spray schedules using DDT and dieldrin. The fourth were peaches from the same source sprayed with the pesticides parathione and dieldrin.

For several days before the test, all of the patients avoided both peaches and chemicals to which they knew they were susceptible. The patients were assembled in my office and were given the various peaches, without any knowledge of which batch they were receiving. Three of the fifteen became ill when they ate plain, uncontaminated peaches. They were evidently allergic to peaches per se. A larger number of the others reacted to both the sulfured and the sprayed peaches. Some of them became so ill, in fact, that they refused to go on with the testing. This was good common sense on their part, but it detracted from the completeness of the experiment. Nevertheless, several of those who had no reaction to the organic peaches were made ill by the sprayed peaches, regardless of the type of spray used. Clearly there were people who were made sick by eating infinitesimally small amounts of insect spray, similar to the amounts millions of people eat every day.

One good effect of this discovery was that patients who had long stopped eating fruit, from the belief that they were made sick by it, were able to start again, provided they ate only organically grown, uncontaminated fruits.

“Multiple fruit sensitivity” turned out to be not such a very rare condition. An investigation of spraying practices exposed some of the underlying reasons for this problem. Peaches, apples, and cherries were the most commonly contaminated, as well as the most heavily contaminated, fruits. Although the total number of spraying applications varied with rainfall and other conditions, peaches, apples, and cherries were often sprayed between ten and fifteen times each season. Recommended spraying started with blossoming and ended only a few weeks prior to harvesting. Needless to say, these fruit were fairly well saturated with spray.

They are hardly unique in this respect, however. It turned out that most of the commercially produced fruits in the United States are copiously sprayed. Some of them are sprayed with many different agents, and it became almost an impossible task to decide which spray caused which symptom in a patient. This problem has increased year by year.

Once a fruit has been sprayed with a combination of pesticide and kerosene, or some other chemical solvent, there is no known way of removing the spray residue. Air passes quite readily through the skin of a piece of fruit and with it comes the spray ingredients, to be incorporated into the pulp itself. Washing, rubbing, peeling, cooking, and any other attempt to clean the spray off do not eliminate spray residues. The experimental proof of this assertion is the chemically sensitive patient, who gets sick from commercial, sprayed fruit no matter how he rubs or washes it.

Some individuals, however, who are not violently susceptible to chemicals, may be able to eat stewed fruit, but not raw, fresh specimens of the same lot. The reason appears to be that when the fruit is stewed, some of the pesticides are boiled off. Some of my patients have, in fact, gotten sick simply by standing over a pot of stewing commercial fruit, inhaling the vapors which contain part of the pesticides escaping into the atmosphere. Stewing organically grown fruit does not have that effect on these patients, however.

It must be emphasized that a highly susceptible person, eating an ordinary diet, rarely suspects the fact that a daily piece of fruit causes any problem at all. The reason for this is that the small, daily dose of pesticide may merely serve to reinforce and perpetuate his symptoms of illness. All he knows is that he felt badly yesterday and feels just as badly today. He naturally does not associate his headache or his asthma or his fatigue with something so innocent, and apparently unconnected, as the supposedly beneficial fruits and vegetables. It is only when he overindulges and takes in an extraordinary amount of these products (and pesticide) that he breaks out of the level of chronic disease and precipitates an obvious reaction.

*13\110\2*

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