Are the fruits and vegetables you eat contaminated with pesticides?

Individuals can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80% by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead.

Consumption of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 10 pesticides per day, on average, compared with less than 2 pesticides per day in the least contaminated.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization, has published The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, which ranks pesticide contamination for 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 87,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

The twelve most contaminated, starting with the highest pesticide load:
1. peaches
2. apple
3. sweet bell pepper
4. celery
5. nectarine
6. strawberries
7. cherries
8. kale
9. lettuce
10. grapes – imported
11. carrot
12. pear

The twelve least contaminated, starting with the lowest pesticide load:
1. onion
2. avocado
3. sweet corn – frozen
4. pineapple
5. mango
6. asparagus
7. sweet pea – frozen
8. kiwi
9. cabbage
10. eggplant
11. papaya
12. watermelon

The EWG used six measures of contamination, and crops were ranked based on a composite score from all categories. These measures were:

• Percent of the samples tested with detectable pesticides
• Percent of the samples with two or more pesticides
• Average number of pesticides found on a sample
• Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
• Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
• Number of pesticides found on the commodity in total

Pesticides have adverse effects on the nervous system and hormones. They have been shown to have carcinogenic effects, and to cause skin, eye and lung irritation. The Guide does not present a complex assessment of pesticide risks, but instead simply reflects the overall load of pesticides found on commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.

How can you avoid consumption of pesticides? Choose to purchase produce low in pesticides and buy organically-raised fruits and vegetables as frequently as possible.

SOURCE: Environmental Working Group, Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,