Dirty Dozen 2022: Produce with the most and least pesticides

Cherries ranked eighth on the list of the 12 most contaminated foods this year, with peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes completing the list.

But don’t skip these foods, which are full of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants needed to fight chronic disease, experts say.

“If the things you like to eat are on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, we encourage you to buy organic versions when you can,” said Alexis Temkin, an EWG toxicologist with expertise in toxic chemicals and pesticides.

“Several peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials have looked at what happens when people switch to an all-organic diet,” he said. “The concentrations and measures of pesticides decrease very quickly.”

Consumers can also check out EWG’s “Clean Fifteen,” a list of products with the fewest pesticides. Nearly 70% of the fruits and vegetables on the list had no detectable pesticide residues, while just under 5% had residues of two or more pesticides, according to the report.

Avocados had the lowest pesticide levels among the 46 foods tested, followed by sweet corn, pineapple, onion and papaya.

multiple pesticides

Published annually since 2004, the EWG report uses testing data from the US Department of Agriculture to rank 46 foods that are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues. USDA staff prepare food as consumers would (wash, peel, or scrub) before tasting Each item.

The USDA doesn’t sample all 46 foods each year, so EWG pulls the results from the most recent testing period. Strawberries, for example, have not been tested by the USDA since 2016, Temkin said,

Many samples of the 46 fruits and vegetables included in the report tested positive for multiple pesticides, including insecticides and fungicides. More than 90% of “strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides,” according to the report.

The tests found the highest level of multiple pesticides, 103, in samples of the heart-healthy trio of kale, collard greens and mustard greens, followed by 101 different pesticides in hot and bell peppers. Overall, “spinach samples had 1.8 times more pesticide residues by weight than any other crop tested,” according to the report.

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Being exposed to multiple pesticides, even at low levels, is “supra-additive,” with each pesticide having a greater impact on health than it might on its own, said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief of environmental pediatrics at NYU. Langone, who was not involved in the report.

Health risks of pesticides

The health hazards of pesticides depend on the type, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Pesticides can affect the nervous system, irritate the eyes and skin, interfere with the body’s hormonal systems or cause cancer, he said. the EPA.
The pesticide DCPA, classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen and banned in 2009 by the European Union, was frequently detected in cabbage, mustard greens and kale, according to the EWG report.
Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide often used on fruit and nut trees and row crops such as broccoli and cauliflower, was banned by the EPA in February 2022 after a 15-year effort by environmental groups.
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Chlorpyrifos contains a enzyme “that leads to neurotoxicity and has also been associated with possible neurodevelopmental effects in children,” the EPA said.

Babies and children are especially vulnerable to pesticides, experts say, because of the damage the chemicals can do to the developing brain. A 2020 study found an increase in IQ loss and intellectual disability in children due to exposure to organophosphates, a common class of pesticides.

A large number of pesticides also affect the endocrine system in developing fetuses, which can interfere with growth, reproduction, and developmental metabolism.

“Even brief exposure to endocrine-disrupting pesticides can cause permanent effects if exposure occurs during critical periods of reproductive development,” according to the EPA.

industry complaints

The agriculture industry has long complained about the “Dirty Dozen” release, saying EWG “intentionally” misrepresents USDA data in the report.

“Simply put, EWG’s attempt to misrepresent data to create bias … results in a growing consumer fear of fruits and vegetables,” said Chris Novak, president and CEO of CropLife America, a trade association. national organization representing pesticide manufacturers, formulators and distributors.

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“One study found that specifically naming the ‘Dirty Dozen’ resulted in shoppers being less likely to buy ANY vegetables and fruits, not just the ones mentioned on their list,” Novak said via email.

In response, EWG said the study in question, which was funded by another industry association, the Alliance for Food and Farming, presents a completely different reality than the one Novak describes.

“Actually, the study shows that just over half of the people surveyed said the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list made them more likely to buy fruits and vegetables,” Temkin said. “Only about 1 in 6 said our report would make them less likely to buy products.”

Steps consumers can take

In addition to eating organic, there are a number of actions consumers can take to reduce exposure to pesticides, and many other toxins, such as heavy metals, that can be found in produce.
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Rinse all products before serving. Do not use soap, detergent or commercial products to wash; water is the best option, experts say.

“Household soap and detergents can be absorbed into fruits and vegetables, despite thorough rinsing, and can make you sick. In addition, the safety of residues from commercial product washes is not known and their efficacy has not been proven,” said the US Food and Drug Administration stated.

Choose locations. Buying food that is purchased directly from a local farmer can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure, experts say.

Buy in season. Prices go down when fruits and vegetables are in season and plentiful. That’s a good time to buy organic foods in bulk, then freeze or can them for future use, experts suggest.

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