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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Is spraying Fruit dangerous to Health?

Is spraying Fruit dangerous to Health?

The only insecticide sprays which are at all dangerous to use are the arsenic compounds, and even here the danger is greatly exaggerated by those not conversant with the facts. A case of fatal poisoning from their use as such has never been substantiated. The only danger lies in having the poison about a farm or orchard in bulk.

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The question as to whether arsenic may be absorbed by the growing plant in any degree has long ago been settled in the negative. The only way in which fruit can convey the poison to the consumer will be through the very minute quantity of arsenic left upon the edible part of the plant. Against the possibility of such an effect the following facts may be urged: A mathematical computation will quickly show that where the poison is used in the proportion of lib. to 150 gals, of water the arsenic will be so distributed through the water that it will be impossible for a sufficient quantity to collect upon any given apple to have the slightest injurious effect upon the consumer. In fact, such a computation will indicate beyond all doubt that it would be necessary for an individual to consume some twenty cases of apples at a single meal in order to absorb a fatal dose, even should such an enormous meal be eaten soon after spraying, and the consumer eat the entire fruit.

As a matter of fact, careful microscopic examinations have been made of the fruit and foliage of sprayed trees at various intervals after spraying, which indicate that the poison soon entirely disappears, either being blown off by the wind or washed off by rains, so that after fifteen days hardly the minutest trace can be discovered.

The whole subject was well summed up by Professor Riley in a recent lecture in Boston, United States, in the following words: "The latest sensational report of this kind was the rumour emanating from London within the last week that American apples were being rejected for fear that their use was unsafe. If we consider for a moment how minute is the quantity of arsenic that can, under the most favourable circumstances, remain in the calyx of an apple, we shall see at once how absurd this fear is; for, even if the poison which originally killed the worm remained intact, one would have to eat many barrels of apples at a meal to get a sufficient quantity to poison a human being. Moreover, much of the poison is washed off by rain, and some of it is thrown off by natural growth of the apple, so that there is, as a rule, nothing left of the poison in the garnered fruit. Add to this the further fact that few people eat apples raw without casting away the calyx and stem ends, the only parts where any poison could, under the most favourable circumstances, remain, and that these parts are always cut away in cooking, and We see how utterly groundless are any fears of injury, and how useless any prohibitive measures against American [or New Zealand] apples on this score."