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The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that educates people on subjects like agricultural practices, protection of natural resources, and the effect of chemicals on human health. Since 1995, they continue to release the Dirty Dozen — a list of conventional fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues.
In no particular order, these twelve crops have the highest levels of pesticide residues:
- Strawberries: Conventional strawberries always make it to the Dirty Dozen list. The EWG learned that one-third of strawberry samples had at least ten pesticide residues.
- Spinach: A whopping 97 percent of spinach samples included pesticide residues, including permethrin, a neurotoxic insecticide toxic to animals.
- Kale: Over 92 percent of kale samples had residue from at least two pesticides after washing the vegetables.
- Grapes: Conventionally grown grapes are another consistent part of the Dirty Dozen list with over 96 percent testing positive for pesticide residues.
- Nectarines: The EWG identified pesticide residues in nearly 94 percent of nectarine samples, with one sample carrying over 15 different pesticides.
- Apples: Researchers found residues in 90 percent of apple samples. In addition, 80 percent of the apples examined carried traces of diphenylamine, a toxic pesticide banned in Europe.
- Cherries: There is an average of five residues on cherry samples, including iprodione, which is another pesticide banned in Europe.
- Peaches: Over 90 percent of conventional peaches tested by the EWG had an average of four different pesticide residues.
- Pears: Over 50 percent of pears tested by the EWG comprised residues from five or more pesticides.
- Tomatoes: The EWG detected four pesticide residues on a conventional tomato sample. One sample contained more than 15 different residues.
- Celery: Over 95 percent of celery samples had as many as 13 different pesticides.
- Potatoes: Potato samples had more pesticide residues by weight than any other crop tested. An herbicide called chlorpropham made up most of the detected pesticides.
What’s the Real Issue?
There are several conflicting opinions about the safety of pesticides in crops. Although the pesticides used on fruits and vegetables are regulated and maintained below harmful limits, there is a growing concern about how repeated exposure to such substances affects human health.
Several scientific studies found a link between pesticide exposure and adverse health effects, including reproductive issues, respiratory problems, neurological damage, endocrine system disruption, and increased risk of certain cancers.
Children are at greater risk of developing pesticide toxicity than adults because of their smaller size, reduced amounts of detoxifying enzymes, and that their developing brains are more sensitive to neurotoxic pesticides. Therefore, it is quite clear that repeated exposure to high amounts of pesticide can be dangerous.
A Word of Advice from One Home to Another
The health problems associated with pesticide residues are not worth risking, so parents should be cautious when buying conventionally grown produce and feeding it to their children. When in doubt, you can always count on organic fruits and veggies. They may be a tad more expensive than conventional crops, but they do contain more nutrients and have lower levels of pesticides.