The non-profit organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce that reveals the total pesticide load for 46 popular fruits and vegetables. The guide also includes new information on pesticides in baby food and drinking water.
The EWG guide is famous for listing the worst offenders, dubbed the “Dirty Dozen,” as well as the produce with the least pesticide residue, called the “Clean Fifteen.”
It’s important to note that these lists are based on data from the USDA pesticide testing program. The produce is washed and/or peeled prior to testing so the amount of chemicals detected represents what would be consumed.
Dirty Dozen Plus
These fruits and vegetables are best to buy organic.
- Apples – 98% of conventionally grown apples had pesticides
- Celery – Highly contaminated, celery tested positive for 57 different pesticides
- Sweet Bell Peppers – Up to 15 pesticides were found on a single sample
- Strawberries -- Thirteen different pesticides were measured on a single sample of strawberries.
- Nectarines (imported) -- Every single nectarine tested had measurable pesticide residues
- Grapes -- As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other fruit, with 64 different chemicals
- Lettuce -- Seventy-eight different pesticides were found on lettuce samples
- Blueberries -- Domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues
Plus: Green Beans and Leafy Greens (including Kale and Collard Greens)
This year EWG expanded the Dirty Dozen with a “Plus” category to highlight two crops -- green beans and leafy greens, meaning, kale and collard greens because they contain pesticides of special concern. They are commonly contaminated with organophosphate insecticides that are highly toxic to the nervous system.
More than 90 percent of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant and sweet potato samples had one or fewer pesticides detected. Of all the fruits and vegetables on the “clean” list, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals detected.
- Onions – Less that 1% of samples had any pesticides
- Sweet Corn – Ninety-eight percent of samples had no detectable pesticide residues
- Sweet Peas
- Cantaloupe (domestic)
- Sweet Potatoes
Pesticides in Baby Foods
New to EWG’s guide this year are the results of USDA testing of about 190 samples of prepared baby food consisting of green beans, pears and sweet potatoes.
Nearly all pear samples (92%) had at least one type of pesticide residue with 26% of samples containing five or more pesticides. A total of 15 different pesticides were found among the samples. One of the pesticides detected, iprodione, is categorized by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen and is not approved for use on pears. Its presence in the sample constitutes a violation of federal law.
The green bean baby food tested positive for five pesticides including organophosphates which were found in nearly 10% of samples.
The only good news in baby food testing: sweet potatoes sold as baby food had virtually no detectable pesticide residues.
Pesticides on Tap
Also new to the guide are the results of USDA testing for pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals in community drinking water systems that use surface water such as reservoirs, lakes or rivers as their water sources.
Tests of 284 samples from 12 different water systems found:
- The presence of 65 pesticides or their metabolites
- The toxic herbicide atrazine or its metabolites in every single sample
- The herbicides 2,4-D and metolachlor in more than 70 percent of the samples
- Six other pesticides in at least half the samples
Get the Guide
For more test results and ways to reduce your exposure to pesticide residue, download the full report: EWG’s 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
Environmental Working Group