Dirty Dozen 2022: Produce with the most and least pesticides

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

But don’t stop eating these foods, which are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants needed to fight chronic diseases, experts say.

“If the things you love to eat are on the Dirty Dozen list, we recommend buying organic versions if you can,” said Alexis Temkin, an EWG toxicologist with experience in toxic chemicals and pesticides.

“Several peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials have examined what happens when people switch to a completely organic diet,” she said. “Pesticide concentrations and measurements are declining very rapidly.”

Consumers can also consult the EWG “Clean Fifteen” – a list of products with the least 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, the report said.

Avocados have the lowest pesticide levels among the 46 products tested, followed by sweet corn, pineapple, onions and papaya.

Several pesticides

The EWG report, published annually since 2004, uses U.S. Department of Agriculture test data to rank 46 products that are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues. USDA staff prepare food the way consumers do – washing, cleaning or scrubbing – before testing each element.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not select all 46 products each year, so the EWG pulls out the results of the last testing period. For example, strawberries have not been tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 2016, Temkin said.

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

Testing found the highest levels of many pesticides – 103 – on trio samples for heart health – cabbage, cabbage and mustard, followed by 101 different pesticides on hot and bell peppers. In general, “spinach samples had 1.8 times more pesticide residues by weight than any other tested crop,” the report said.

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The effects of several pesticides, even at low levels, are “super-additive” and each pesticide has a greater impact on health than it could alone, said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, head of environmental pediatrics at New York University in Langone, who was not involved in the report. .

Health hazards of pesticides

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the health hazards from pesticides depend on the type. Pesticides can affect the nervous system, irritate the eyes and skin, interfere with the body’s hormonal system or cause cancer, according to EPA.
The pesticide DCPA, classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen and banned in 2009 by the European Union, has often been found on cabbage, mustard and cabbage, the EWG report said.
Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide commonly used on nut and fruit trees and fragrant crops such as broccoli and cauliflower, was banned by the EPA in February 2022 after 15 years of efforts by environmental groups.
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Chlorpyrifos contains en an enzyme that “causes neurotoxicity and has also been linked to potential effects on the development of the nervous system in children,” the EPA said.

Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides, experts say, because of the damage 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 phosphate-organic matter, a common class of pesticides.

Large amounts of pesticides also affect the endocrine system during fetal development, which can interfere with growth, reproduction and metabolism.

“Even short-term exposure to pesticides that alter endocrine function can have lasting effects if exposure occurs during critical windows of reproductive development,” the EPA said.

Industrial complaints

The agricultural industry has long complained about the release of the “Dirty Dozen,” saying the EWG “intentionally” showcases USDA data in a report.

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

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“Research has shown that the name” Dirty Dozen “has led to the fact that buyers are less likely to buy ANY vegetables and fruits, not just those listed on their list,” – said Novak by e-mail.

In response, the EWG stated that the study in question, funded by another industry association, the Alliance for Food and Farming, represents a completely different reality than what Novak describes.

“The study actually shows that just over half of those surveyed said the Dirty Dozen list increases the likelihood of buying fruits and vegetables,” Temkin said. “Only about every 6 said our report would make them less likely to buy products.”

Steps that consumers can take

In addition to organic food, consumers can take a number of actions to reduce exposure to pesticides – and many other toxins such as heavy metals – that can be found in foods.
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Rinse all foods before serving. Don’t use soap, detergents or commercial laundry products – water is the best choice, experts say.

“Soap and household detergents can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, despite thorough rinsing, and can cause vomiting. In addition, the safety of commercial detergent residues is unknown and their effectiveness has not been tested,” said the US Food and the Drug Administration said.

Choose local. Buying food 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 in season and abundant. Experts believe it is a good time to buy organic products in bulk and then freeze or save them for future use.

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