Quantcast

Strawberries, Spinach Top 'Dirty Dozen' List of Pesticide-Contaminated Produce

Food
Strawberries top the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of U.S. produce most contaminated with pesticides. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP / Getty Images

Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.


This year's surprise? Kale ranked number three, behind strawberries and spinach. More than 92 percent of conventionally kale samples had residue from two or more pesticides, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tests. The last year that the USDA tested kale was in 2009, when it ranked eighth.

"We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal," EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. said in a statement announcing the new list Wednesday. "Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone's diet, and when it comes to some conventionally grown produce items, such as kale, choosing organic may be a better option."

The other items on the list were:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

The "Dirty Dozen" is part of the EWG's annual "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce," which also includes a "Clean Fifteen" list of the produce with the least amount of pesticide residue. Topping that list were avocados, sweet corn and pineapples.

The lists are based on more than 40,900 fruit and vegetable samples tested by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Overall, pesticides were found on nearly 70 percent of non-organic produce sold in the U.S., according to EWG. One of the pesticides found was Dacthal, which was found on nearly 60 percent of kale samples. It has been found by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to possibly cause cancer in humans and has been banned from being used on crops in the EU since 2009. Another chemical found on apples, diphenylamine, has also been banned in the EU over cancer concerns.

Exposure to pesticides is especially dangerous for young children, EWG noted, since they are still developing. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted there are reasons to be worried about pesticide exposure in young children, especially before birth, since exposure may lead to developmental and behavioral issues, CNN reported.

"Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to children," pediatrician Dr. Philip Landrigan said in the EWG statement. "When possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children's exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables."

However, Alliance for Food and Farming Executive Director Teresa Thorne told CNN that consumers shouldn't be afraid to buy food on the list, pointing to one study that criticized EWG's list and had found that eating organic did not reduce risk.

"That's largely because residues are so low, if present at all," she said.

However, New York University Medical School environmental medicine specialist Leonardo Trasande told The Guardian that the list was "widely respected' and was a useful guide for those wanting to know which fruits and vegetables to buy organic.

If buying organic is not affordable or possible, though, EWG still advises consumers to eat their veggies.

"The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure," EWG research analyst Carla Burns said.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less
Computer model projection of temperature anomalies across Europe on June 27. Temperature scale in °C. Tropicaltidbits.com

A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.

Read More Show Less
Skull morphology of hybrid "narluga" whale. Nature / Mikkel Høegh Post

In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.

Read More Show Less