Why Should You Care About Pesticides? There is growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can adversely affect people, especially during vulnerable periods of fetal development and childhood when exposures can have long lasting effects. Because the toxic effects of pesticides are worrisome, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, shoppers are wise to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible.
What's the Difference? An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead. Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 14 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day. Less dramatic comparisons will produce less dramatic reductions, but without doubt using the Guide provides people with a way to make choices that lower pesticide exposure in the diet.
Will Washing and Peeling Help? Nearly all of the data used to create these lists already considers how people typically wash and prepare produce (for example, apples are washed before testing, bananas are peeled). While washing and rinsing fresh produce may reduce levels of some pesticides, it does not eliminate them. Peeling also reduces exposures, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel. The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
How This Guide Was Developed? The produce ranking was developed by analysts at the not-for-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2005. A full list of fresh fruits and vegetables that have been tested (see below). EWG is a not-for-profit environmental research organization dedicated to improving public health and protecting the environment by reducing pollution in air, water and food. For more information visit: www.ewg.org
The Full List: 43 Fruits & Vegetables
|RANK||FRUIT OR VEGETABLE||SCORE|
|1 (worst)||Peaches||100 (highest pesticide load)|
|3||Sweet Bell Peppers||86|
|9||Grapes - Imported||68|
|20||Grapes - Domestic||46|
|40||Sweet Peas - Frozen||11|
|43||Sweet Corn - Frozen||2|
|45 (best)||Onions||1 (lowest pesticide load)|
Note: We ranked a total of 44 different fruits and vegetables but grapes are listed twice because we looked at both domestic and imported samples.