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The Dirty Dozen – How Dirty Is Your Food?

The Dirty Dozen | GoodGirlGoneGreen.com

Would you like a side of pesticide with your juicy apple? If you are consuming non-organic apples you might just be getting that. According to the Environmental Working Group, 92% of conventionally grown apples contained 2 or more pesticide residues.  So just how dirty is your food?

That to me is an alarming amount. Not only are pesticides toxic to human health, but they are damaging to the environment. Pesticides were created to kill living organisms such as plants, insects and fungi that can be categorized as “pests.”

The U.S government has linked pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and skin, eye and lung irritation! Scary stuff!

Every year the Environment Working Group analyses approximately 100,000 produce reports from the USDA and FDA. They rank them by the likelihood of being consistently contaminated with a significant amount of pesticides at the highest levels.

The great thing is all this information is presented in a user-friendly guide on the EWG site. This helps consumers make educated decisions on which fruits and vegetables they want to purchase.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to afford organic produce, but sadly not everyone can. By purchasing fruits and vegetables from the “dirty dozen” list, you are significantly lowering your pesticide exposure.

How Dirty is Your Food?

  1. Strawberries – One single sample of strawberries, 13 different pesticides were discovered. Gross- I love strawberries.
  2. Spinach – One of the vegetables to retain pesticide combinations.
  3. Kale – Conventional kale farming relies heavily on the use of several synthetic pesticides, including Dacthal. The EPA’s 1995 classification of it as a possible carcinogen noted increases in liver and thyroid tumours. Dacthal can also cause other kinds of harm to the lungs, liver, kidney and thyroid.
  4. Nectarines (imported) – Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for some kind of pesticide and 90.8 percent of them contained 2 or more pesticide residues.
  5. Apples – Of all the samples of apples tested 99% percent tested positive for pesticides, and they registered the second-highest number of pesticides containing combinations of up to 56 different chemicals.
  6. Grapes (imported) – A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides
  7. Peaches – They were found to be the most treated produce containing up to 57 different chemicals, and it was discovered that 85.6 percent of peaches contain 2 or more pesticide residues.
  8. Cherries – The EWG detected an average of five pesticide residues on cherry samples, including a pesticide called iprodione, which is banned in Europe.
  9. Pears – Pesticides on conventionally grown pears have increased dramatically in recent years, according to the latest tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The pesticides detected on pears include fungicides, applied to control fungus and mold, as well as insecticides. This is troubling because there is very little research on the health effects of ingesting multiple pesticides
  10. Tomatoes – A single sample of cherry tomatoes was contaminated with 13 different chemicals.
  11. Celery – A single celery sample was contaminated with 13 different chemicals.
  12. Potatoes – The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.

Noteworthy –

  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
  • Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables.
  • Only 5.5 percent of Clean 15 samples had two or more pesticides.
  • Hot peppers are treated with as many as 97% pesticides, and greens with 67%.

So there you have it: the most toxic fruits and vegetables. Consider buying organic when purchasing any produce on the dirty dozen list.

Veggies least likely to test positive for pesticide residues

  • sweet corn
  • frozen peas
  • onions
  • eggplant
  • asparagus
  • sweet peas
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • mushrooms

Fruits least likely to test positive for pesticide residues

  • pineapple
  • papaya
  • avocado
  • kiwi
  • cantaloupe
  • honeydew melons

Fruit and veggies that have a non-edible skin can contain fewer pesticides. Just remember to wash the skin with this veggie wash before peeling or cutting into any fruit or veggie. Just water is not good enough anymore. When you cut into an unwashed fruit or vegetable, whatever was on the skin can contaminate the inside of the produce.

Next time you are out grocery shopping, bring both lists above which can be found on the EWG site, and see how you can reduce the number of pesticides that you and your family ingest!

Source: Environmental Working Group

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Reader Interactions


  1. Jackie says

    Wow… I never realized how bad the problem was with pesitcides and toxins on our food. It really makes me more motivated to find a way to start my own garden.

    • Good Girl Gone Green says

      Start off slowly! There is so much info on the internet on how to start a small garden. It’s so worth it! Or buy from your local famers market. Just map sure they do not spray their fruits and veggies! Good luck!

  2. Stephanie says

    Oooh, this is not what I want to hear. I have been trying to buy only organic over the past couple of years. It just gets pricey sometimes, but I suppose I’d rather pay a bit more than eat poison!

  3. veronica lee says

    It scares me what goes into the food we eat every day. I suppose washing fruits with all those so-called pesticide removal wash doesn’t really help or do they?

  4. Jessica says

    Growing up, my family always grew our own foods or went to the local orchards for our fruits. I can remember my parents always buying fertilizer and joking that “this stuff cannot be good for us”…yet they continued to use the chemicals. Now that I am a mom, I made it my mission to ONLY feed my son organic fruits and vegetables and purchase meats that have no added hormones. My parents think I’m nuts, I hear “it never hurt you growing up” or “you turned out just fine”. They are entitled to their own opinion of course, but there are too many facts out there about how harmful these pesticides and chemicals are and I want to give my child a healthy lifestyle as much as possible.

    • Good Girl Gone Green says

      You are no alone Jessica. I too only buy organic fruits and veggies and my husband only eats antibiotic, horome free meat. Everyone thinks we are weird sometimes too but I we are doing what we think is best! I agree, why take the chance? Thanks for sharing!

  5. Gina Alfani says

    Scary stuff! Notifications of food recalls are coming at us at an alarming rate. We are organic gardeners and try to grow as much of our vegetables as possible!

    Thanks for following my blog LaBelladiva . . . I’m following you back as well!

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