The History of Lead Arsenate Use in Apple Production: Comparison of its Impact in Virginia with Other States

Therese Schooley, Michael Weaver, Donald Mullins, Matthew Eick


Lead arsenate (PbHAsO4) was first used in apple orchards in the 1890s to combat the codling moth, Cydia pomonella (L.), a destructive insect pest. This pesticide was very popular among farmers because of its effectiveness, low cost, ease of use, and persistence. Over the next 60 years the frequency and amount of lead arsenate applications increased. Increased use eventually led to development of pesticide resistance, which started the downward spiral of decreased efficacy requiring growers to increase rates and application frequency. Growers eventually switched to more viable alternates such as DDT. The basic nature of the elements in lead arsenate and its widespread use contributed to the contamination of thousands of acres across the United States. As more landowners become aware of the lead arsenate issue, questions arise about the potential risks to human and environmental health. The story of lead arsenate provides rich insight into pesticide application practices of the past and a benchmark by which to judge current practices in pesticide safety education.

Keywords: lead, arsenate, arsenic, history, soil, contamination, human, health, Virginia, apple, fruit, pest, management, pesticide, safety, environment

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