America’s second-most popular fruit – apples – climbed to the top of the “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits; in a yearly survey by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), 98% of them were found to have pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group, which released its seventh edition of EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
The publication has up-to-date information on the pesticide loads of 53 fruits and vegetables.
The Dirty Dozen list includes (in order):
- 1. Apples
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
12. Kale/collard greens
Researchers at the Environmental Working Group gathered data from the USDA and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) from 2000 to 2009. They ranked fruit and vegetables according to a composite score, which weighed six factors equally. These factors reflect how many pesticides were detected in testing, and at what levels. The majority of samples were washed and peeled before testing, reflecting what chemicals people might be ingesting when they eat them.
The Apple was found to be the most contaminated product, jumping from third to first place, knocking celery back into second. In over 700 samples tested, 98% of the apples were found to have pesticide residues in them.
Thirty-three unapproved pesticides were detected on 44% of cilantro samples tested; the highest percentage of unapproved pesticides in any tested produce since 1995. Coriander refers to the seeds (fruits) while cilantro refers to the leaves of the Coriandrum sativum plant.
The Clean 15 list includes (in order):
- 1. Onions
6. Sweet peas
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
13. Sweet potatoes
Green onions appeared on the list for the first time, as did mushrooms and cranberries.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook, said:
“Though buying organic is always the best choice, we know that sometimes people do not have access to that produce or cannot afford it. Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce, and lets them know which fruits and vegetables they may want to buy organic.”
The EWG informs that pesticides can be harmful to human health and have been associated with cancer, nervous system toxicity, as well as undermining children’s IQ.
Dr. Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP, creator of the book/DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block, said:
“I really worry that pesticides on food are unhealthy for the tender, developing brains and bodies of young children. Parents don’t realize they’re often feeding their little ones fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide residues. Studies show even small amounts of these chemicals add up and can impair a child’s health when they’re exposed during the early, critical stages of their development. When pesticide sprayers have to bundle up in astronaut-like suits for protection, it’s clear parents want to feed their families food containing as little of these toxic chemicals as possible.”
Andrew Weil, MD, Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a renowned medical expert on natural health and wellness, said:
“Pesticides, while designed specifically to kill certain organisms, are also associated with a host of very serious health problems in people, including neurological deficits, ADHD, endocrine system disruption and cancer. My advice to consumers is to whenever possible avoid exposure to pesticides, including pesticide residues on food.”
If you eat five servings of fruit and vegetables from the Clean 15 list rather than the Dirty Dozen list, your pesticide intake might drop by as much as 92%, according to EWG.
If your 5 fruit and veggies servings come from the 12 most contaminated products you are most likely consuming an average of 14 different pesticides each day, while doing the same from the 15 least contaminated products would reduce your daily intake to fewer than two pesticides per day.
You should not avoid eating fruit and vegetables, the authors of the report stress. The health benefits of eating five servings of fruit and vegetables each day far outweigh any health risks posed by their pesticide content. US health authorities insist that all pesticide contents in the fruit and vegetables tested were within recommended limits.
Senior analyst at EWG, Sonya Lunder, said:
“Pesticides are toxic. They are designed to kill things and most are not good for you. The question is, how bad are they?”
“EWG’s 2011 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce” (There is a fee)
Written by Christian Nordqvist