New 'Dirty Dozen' List of Pesticide-Laden Produce Just Released

Photo: Martial Colomb/Getty ImagesThe Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its newest Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides on Monday, which is Earth Day. And apples top its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues for the third year in a row. 

Other changes from the 2012 findings: cherry tomatoes and hot peppers are newcomers this year. Blueberries and lettuce, meanwhile, dropped off the Dirty Dozen list. The environmental watchdog group uses data compiled by the USDA, based on pre-washed samples of 48 types of conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables, to produce its findings.


“I think most Americans would be very surprised about how prevalent pesticide residue is,” EWG senior analyst Sonya Lunder told Yahoo! Shine, noting that pesticides were still seen on 67 percent of the samples, which were all either washed or peeled before being tested.

Among the top three worst offenders—apples, strawberries and grapes—nearly every sample had pesticides on it, Lunder said, with one grape alone showing traces of 15 pesticides.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Services acknowledges that scientists do not have a full understanding of the health risks associated with exposure to pesticide residues through food, soil, water, or air. Still, notes EWG, various U.S. and international government agencies have linked pesticides to a slew of health risks, including cancer, hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity and irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs.

Dirty Dozen 2013:

Apples
Strawberries
Grapes
Celery
Peaches
Spinach
Sweet bell peppers
Nectarines (imported)
Cucumbers
Potatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Hot peppers

Additionally, the EWG added a “plus” category for the second year, noting two items—domestically-grown summer squash, plus kale and collards—that, though they didn’t meet Dirty Dozen standards, were commonly contaminated with exceptionally toxic pesticides. These organophosphates, dangerous to the nervous system, were phased out of agricultural use in the 1970s and ’80s, but still linger on many farm fields.

Still, there’s also good news, as the guide includes the “Clean Fifteen”—fruits and veggies with the lowest levels of pesticides, offering hopeful solutions for anyone not in the position to find or pay for more expensive organics. Many of these safest options have naturally protective coatings, such as corn, which tops that list once again this year, and papaya, which is a newcomer. Watermelon, sadly, dropped off the clean list from 2012.

“The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure,” notes the EWG report, stressing that “eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”

Clean Fifteen 2013:

Corn
Onions
Pineapple
Avocados
Cabbage
Sweet peas (frozen, since they’re more readily available)
Papayas
Mangoes
Asparagus
Eggplant
Kiwi
Grapefruit
Cantaloupe
Sweet potatoes
Mushrooms

The consumer list, Lunder said, “shows the real difference you can make in your purchasing habits, even if you’re only buying conventional.”
 

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