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Thursday, May 27, 2010
The Environmental Working Group conducted a study of pesticides on a variety of fruits and vegetables. Here is a summary of their results.

Finding Healthier Food

You can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and instead eating the least contaminated produce, according to EWG calculations. When you eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you’ll be exposed to an average of 10 pesticides a day. When you choose fresh produce from the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables, you’ll consume fewer than 2 pesticides per day.

The Dirty Dozen

Of the 12 most contaminated foods, 7 are fruits: peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, cherries and imported grapes. Notable findings:
  • More than 96 percent of peaches tested positive for pesticides, followed by nectarines (95.1 percent) and apples (93.6 percent).
  • Nearly 86 percent of peaches contained 2 or more pesticide residues ‚ followed by apples (82.3 percent) and nectarines (80.6 percent).
  • Strawberries and domestic blueberries each had 13 pesticides detected on a single sample. Peaches and apples were second, with 9 pesticides on one sample.
  • Peaches had been treated with more pesticides than any other produce, registering combinations of up to 67 different chemicals. Strawberries were next, with 53 pesticides and apples with 47.
Celery, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale, collard greens and potatoes are the vegetables most likely to retain pesticide contamination:
  • Some 95 percent all celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by imported cucumbers (84.5 percent) and potatoes (84.2 percent).
  • Nearly 85 percent of celery samples contained multiple pesticides, followed by sweet bell peppers (61.5 percent) and collard greens (53.2 percent).
  • A single celery was contaminated with 13 different chemicals, followed by kale (10), and collard greens, domestic green beans, spinach and lettuce (9).
  • Celery had been treated with as many as 67 pesticides, followed by sweet bell peppers (63) and kale (57).

The Clean Fifteen

The vegetables least likely to test positive for pesticides are onions, sweet corn, sweet peas, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant and sweet potatoes.
  • Asparagus, sweet corn, and onions had no detectable pesticide residues on 90 percent or more of samples.
  • More than four-fifths of cabbage samples (82.1 percent) had no detectible pesticides, followed by sweet peas (77.1 percent) and eggplant (75.4 percent).
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on vegetables low in overall contamination. No samples of onions and corn showed more than one pesticide. Sweet potatoes showed multiple pesticides in 9.3 percent of samples.
  • The most contaminated single sample among the low-pesticide vegetables showed 4 different chemicals.
The fruits least likely to test positive for pesticide residues are avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, domestic cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit and honeydew.
  • Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples showed detectable, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue.
  • Nearly 60 percent of honeydew melons had detectable pesticides but only 14.2 percent of samples contained more than one residue. Grapefruit had residues on 54.5 percent of samples, and 17.5 percent showed multiple pesticide residues. 

Why should I be concerned about pesticides?

As acknowledged by U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including:
  • Nervous system toxicity
  • Cancer
  • Hormone system effects
  • Skin, eye and lung irritation
Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment. They are designed to kill living organisms -- insects, plants, and fungi that are considered "pests." Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health dangers to people, risks that have been established by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.



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