Scared of Pesticides? Watch Out for Strawberries

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Scared of Pesticides? Watch Out for Strawberries

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed data released from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to discover which produce is most likely to be contaminated by pesticides. Number one on the list of most contaminated? Strawberries.

In the test, which included 48 different types of produce, Spinach came in a close second, followed by nectarines, apples and peaches. 

The EWG’s analysis found nearly 70 percent of these 48 types to be contaminated by residues of one or more pesticides. Furthermore, 178 different kinds of pesticides were found—all of which remained on fruits and veggies post-washing, and sometimes even post-peeling.

Below, you can take a look at the “EWG’s “Dirty Dozen list of the most commonly contaminated produce below, in order from most contaminated to least contaminated:

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

The concern behind this list is that pesticides can be toxic to humans. The World Health Organization has classified pesticides as carcinogenic, neurotoxic and teratogenic—meaning they can cause cancer, they can cause damage to the brain and they can cause damage to a fetus.

Though low levels may be nearly harmless to adults, they can have adverse effects on children. In fact, the EWG told parents to avoid giving young children and infants produce that has potentially been contaminated by pesticides—as exposure can be harmful to a developing brain.

“Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown,” said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the EWG. “But for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic.”

The EWG also released a list of the “Clean Fifteen” alongside the “Dirty Dozen.” The “Clean Fifteen” provides more alternatives for parents in search of a pesticide-free diet for their children as well as themselves.

Photo: Fried Dough, CC-BY

Elizabeth Chambers is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.