Food Choices and Pesticide Exposure

According to a recent study the following 12 foods and vegetables make up the so-called “dirty dozen” and are the most contaminated with pesticide residues:

• Apples
• Bell peppers
• Celery
• Cherries
• Imported grapes
• Nectarines
• Peaches
• Pears
• Potatoes
• Red raspberries
• Spinach
• Strawberries

The following 12 were found to be the least contaminated, even if not organic:

• Asparagus
• Avocados
• Bananas
• Broccoli
• Cauliflower
• Corn (sweet)
• Kiwi
• Mangos
• Onions
• Papayas
• Pineapples
• Peas (sweet)

The idea here is to avoid foods listed in the “dirty dozen” or consume them only if organic. The least contaminated foods raise the least concern, even if not organic.

Using a computer model, researchers estimated that switching from daily consumption of the most contaminated foods to the least contaminated reduces exposure to pesticides by as much as 90% even if none of the foods are organic. People consuming the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables are exposed to twenty pesticides a day on average. By comparison, eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to only a little over two pesticides a day.

Although washing fruits and vegetables is always recommended, it is not an effective way to reduce pesticide exposure. A few of the pesticides may wash off to some degree, but
many are taken internally by the plant and are not affected by washing.

Skeptics will always think that pesticides must be safe if the government allows them. It should be noted, however, that pesticides are toxic by definition, since they are designed to kill insects, and harmful or even lethal effects in humans are predictable at high enough levels of exposure.

Studies on low-dose exposure in humans are scant and we have no safety data relating to concurrent low-dose exposure to multiple pesticides over long periods of time. This is
particularly significant when it comes to infants and developing fetuses that are known to be the most vulnerable groups.

To read the entire study, go to The Environmental Working Group’s website and click on “Reduce amount of pesticides in your diet.”

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