Would you like a mouthful of pesticides with your peach? If you’re eating non-organic peaches, that’s what you may well be getting. According to the 2011 edition of Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, the majority of conventional peaches contain two or more pesticide residues; in fact, peaches as a group rack up a combination of up to 57 separate pesticides. Pesticides can be extremely toxic to human health and the environment. Both U.S. and international government agencies have linked pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ deficits among children.
Each year Environmental Working Group analyzes nearly 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the USDA and the FDA to determine what fruits and vegetables contain the highest (the “Dirty Dozen”) and lowest (the “Clean 15″) amounts of chemical residue. The information is presented in a handy shopper’s guide. I love this list, it is so practical and puts the ability to eat safely in everybody’s hands. It’s a brilliant workaround.
Shoppers can use the list in two ways:
• If you are unable to buy organic produce, for whatever reason, avoid the Dirty Dozen and instead opt for the Clean 15.
• If you can buy limited organic produce, purchase organically-grown items from the Dirty Dozen, and continue buying non-organic selections from the Clean 15.
Of course, in a perfect place we wouldn’t be contending with pesticides at all – but given this wonky world, at least we have some tools to help navigate around the n-methyl carbamates and organophosphate pesticides. (Did you know that some of the most commonly used pesticides today were originally derived from nerve gasses developed during World War II? Fun fact. Ugh.)
Anyway, by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly 92 percent. Here’s where to start, number 1 being the most contaminated.
The Dirty Dozen: Buy these organic
97.8 percent of all samples tested positive for pesticides; 92 percent of apples contained 2 or more pesticide residues. As a category. apples have been treated with the second-highest number of pesticides registering combinations of up to 56 different chemicals.
96 percent of all celery samples tested positive for pesticides. Nearly 90 percent of celery samples contained multiple pesticide; a single celery sample was contaminated with 13 different chemicals.
Strawberries had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample.
85.6 percent of peach samples contained 2 or more pesticide residues. As a category, peaches have been treated with more pesticides than any other produce, registering combinations of up to 57 different chemicals.
6. Nectarines (imported)
Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, 90.8 percent contained 2 or more pesticide residues.
The Dirty Dozen continued: Buy these organic
7. Grapes (imported)
Imported grapes had 14 pesticides detected on a single sample; domestic grapes had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample.
8. Sweet bell peppers
Nearly 69.4 percent of sweet bell pepper samples contained multiple pesticide. A single sweet bell pepper sample was contaminated with 11 different chemicals.
91.4 percent all potato samples tested positive for pesticides.
10. Blueberries (domestic)
A single kale/collards sample was contaminated with 11 different chemicals. As a group, greens had been treated with as many as 66 pesticides.
The Clean 15: Lowest in pesticide residue
The vegetables least likely to test positive for pesticides are listed here, number one being the cleanest. According to EWG: asparagus, sweet corn and onions had no detectable pesticide residues on 90 percent or more of samples. More than four-fifths of cabbage samples (81.8 percent) had no detectible pesticides, followed by sweet peas (77.1 percent) and eggplant (75.4 percent). Of the low-pesticide vegetables, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals.
2. Sweet Corn
6. Sweet peas
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
13. Sweet potatoes
Go to the EWG site to read more and to download a printable shopping list.