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The Dirty Dozen: The Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegtables

written by: Terrie Schultz•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 5/5/2010

Choosing organically grown foods is a good way to avoid unnecessary exposure to toxic pesticides. Some fruits and vegetables have a much higher level of contamination than others. Here is a list of the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

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    Pesticide Residues in Foods are Harmful

    Pesticides can be a causative factor in many different health problems, and those with the highest risk are children and pregnant women. However, not all fruits and vegetables have the same amount of pesticide contamination.

    The Environmental Working Group compiles an annual list of the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, and recommends that consumers always buy organically grown versions of these foods. Thousands of samples of fruits and vegetables are analyzed for total percent of samples containing pesticide residues, the number of different pesticides present per sample, and overall pesticide contamination. Rankings on the list were determined by a combination of these findings.

    Consumers who regularly eat non-organically grown fruits and vegetables from this list will be exposed to an average of 10 different pesticides per day. Studies have found that washing, scrubbing and peeling non-organically grown produce does not solve the problem because pesticides can be absorbed into the flesh of the fruit. Choosing organically grown fruits and vegetables from this list is a good way to avoid unnecessary exposure to these toxic chemicals.

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    List of the 12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

    The Environmental Working Group compiles a yearly list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, and recommends that consumers always choose organically grown versions of these foods

    1. Celery
    2. Peaches
    3. Strawberries
    4. Apples
    5. Blueberries (Domestic)
    6. Nectarines
    7. Sweet Bell Peppers
    8. Spinach
    9. Collard Greens/Kale
    10. Cherries
    11. Potatoes
    12. Grapes (Imported)

    Many of the fruits and vegetables tested contained more than one type of pesticide residue. Of the peach samples tested, over 85% were found to have two or more different pesticide residues. Greater than 80% of apple, nectarine and celery samples also contained two or more types of pesticides, while 61% of sweet bell peppers and 53% of collard greens were also found to contain multiple types of pesticides.

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    The Clean Fifteen: Foods that are Least Contaminated

    In addition to the Dirty Dozen list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, the Environmental Working Group also publishes a list of foods that have the least amount of pesticide contamination, and are generally considered to be safe to eat if non-organically grown.

    1. Onions
    2. Avocados
    3. Sweet Corn
    4. Pineapples
    5. Mangoes
    6. Sweet Peas
    7. Asparagus
    8. Kiwi
    9. Cabbage
    10. Eggplant
    11. Cantaloupe (Domestic)
    12. Watermelon
    13. Grapefruit
    14. Sweet Potatoes
    15. Honeydew Melon

    Even though these fruits and vegetables were not organically grown, they contained little or no pesticide residues. There were no pesticide residues found on 90% of the samples of onions, sweet corn and asparagus. The majority (82%) of cabbage samples were found to be pesticide free, as were 77% of sweet pea samples and 75% of eggplant samples. Less than 10% of the avocado, mango and pineapple samples were found to contain pesticides. Although they were included on the "clean" list, over half of the grapefruit samples (54%) and almost 60% of the honeydew melon samples contained pesticide residues.

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    Resources

    Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org

    Dr. Andrew Weil, "Foods You Should Always Buy Organic" www.drweil.com