Dirty Dozen

No, I’m not talking about the 1967 movie starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson and others. I’m actually referring to which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have the highest likelihood of containing pesticide residues? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information to consumers about chemical exposures, the worst offenders are:

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines – imported
7. Grapes – imported
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries – domestic
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

In fact, 63% of all produce has been found to have detectable levels of pesticides. It should be noted that the testing is done after washing items like blueberries and peaches and peeling items like bananas, so we are not just talking about the outer portion of the fruits/vegetables.

Do we know the health effects of low levels of pesticide exposure on humans? Not entirely. There just aren’t enough studies. It is clear that pesticides do significant harm to workers not adequately protected from exposure and are toxic and/or carcinogenic to laboratory animals. We also know that various pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems including hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity, and cancer. And recent studies of organophosphate compounds used on some fruits and vegetables have determined that children with high exposures to these compounds are at greater risk for neurological problems and impaired intelligence. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control National Biomonitoring Program has determined that pesticide residues are present in blood and urine of 96% of humans tested.

Obviously, buying organic fruits and vegetables is always the best option. When you buy organic, you are reducing your exposure to pesticides and promoting sustainable farming methods that protect the environment. However, as a minimum, by paying attention to the dirty dozen list, you can substantially reduce your exposure to pesticides.