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EPA Re-thinks Pesticides

In an effort to lower children's exposure to toxic chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency has imposed new restrictions two pesticides widely used on fruit and vegetables, reports CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews.

Methyl parathion will be banned from its use on fresh fruits, like apples, grapes and peaches, and restrictions will be imposed on the second chemical, azinphos-methyl.

The action stems from concerns that the pesticides can cause nervous system damage, especially in young children.

"This is a very good day. The action the EPA took today will protect infants, pregnant moms across the country from pesticides in the diet," said Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The restrictions are being issued under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, which requires the EPA to reassess the uses of various pesticides.

Farm groups say there is no sound scientific basis for restricting the two chemicals, and they fear the public will react by shunning this year's crop. They argue there is no inexpensive replacement for the pesticides and that only tiny traces reach the consumer.

"It's a little bit overblown, I think. And there is really no hard proven evidence that these chemicals can do any harm," says fruit grower Rudy Prey.

Parents can reduce the potential for harm by washing all fruits and vegetables. Experts caution the decision limits only a fraction of the chemicals used on produce.

While farmers say the EPA went too far, environmental critics say the agency is dragging its feet. There are 230 pesticides thought to pose some risk to humans, critics point out. After a three-year study, the EPA has taken action against only two.

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