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Dirty Dozen 2022: Producing with the most and the least pesticides


Cherries came in at number eight this year on the list of the 12 most contaminated foods, with peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes completing the list.

But don’t stop eating these foods, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants needed to fight chronic disease, experts say.

“If the things you like to eat are on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, we recommend buying organic versions when you can,” said Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist at EWG who specializes in toxic chemicals and pesticides.

“Several peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials have looked at what happens when people switch to an all-organic diet,” she said. “Pesticide concentrations and measurements are decreasing very rapidly.”

Consumers can also check out EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” – a list of products with the lowest pesticide content. Nearly 70% of the fruits and vegetables on the list contain no detectable pesticide residues, while just under 5% contain residues of two or more pesticides, according to the report.

Avocados had the lowest pesticide levels among the 46 foods tested, followed by sweet corn, pineapple, onions and papaya.

Multiple pesticides

Published annually since 2004, the EWG report uses data from US Department of Agriculture testing to rank 46 foods that are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues. USDA employees prepare food as consumers would – wash, peel or rub – before testing each object.

The USDA does not sample all 46 foods every year, so the EWG pulls results from the most recent testing period. Strawberries, for example, haven’t been tested by the USDA since 2016, Temkin said,

Many samples of the 46 fruits and vegetables included in the report tested positive for several pesticides, including insecticides and fungicides. More than 90% of “strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides,” the report said.

The tests revealed the highest level of multiple pesticides – 103 – on samples of the heart-healthy trio of kale, collard greens and mustard, followed by 101 different pesticides on hot peppers and bell peppers. Overall, “spinach samples contained 1.8 times more pesticide residues by weight than any other crop tested,” the report said.

Dirty Dozen 2022: Producing with the most and the least pesticides

Being exposed to multiple pesticides, even at low levels, is “supra-additive,” with each pesticide impacting health more than it could in isolation, said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone, which was not involved in the report.

Health risks of pesticides

The health hazards of pesticides depend on the type, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Pesticides can impact the nervous system, irritate eyes and skin, interfere with the body’s hormonal systems or cause cancer, the EPA said.
The pesticide DCPA, classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen and banned in 2009 by the European Union, was frequently detected on collard greens, mustard greens and kale, according to the report from the EWG.
Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide often used on nut and fruit trees and row crops such as broccoli and cauliflower, was banned by the EPA in February 2022 after a 15-year effort by environmental groups.
Dirty Dozen 2022: Producing with the most and the least pesticides

Chlorpyrifos contains a enzyme “which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurodevelopmental effects in children,” the EPA said.

Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides, experts say, because of the damage the chemicals can cause to the developing brain. A 2020 study found increased IQ loss and intellectual disability in children due to exposure to organophosphates, a common class of pesticides.

Many pesticides also affect the endocrine system of developing fetuses, which can interfere with developmental growth, reproduction, and metabolism.

“Even brief exposure to pesticides that alter endocrine function can have permanent effects if exposure occurs during critical windows of reproductive development,” according to the EPA.

Industry Complaints

The agriculture industry has long complained about the release of the “Dirty Dozen,” saying the EWG “intentionally” misrepresents USDA data in the report.

“To put it simply, EWG’s attempt to misrepresent data to create bias…is driving growing consumer fear of fruits and vegetables,” said Chris Novak, president and CEO of CropLife America. , a national trade association representing manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticides.

Dirty Dozen 2022: Producing with the most and the least pesticides

“A study found that specifically naming the ‘Dirty Dozen’ led to a decrease in the likelihood that shoppers would buy ANY vegetable and fruit, not just the ones on their list,” Novak said via email. mail.

In response, EWG said the study in question, which was funded by another industry association, the Food and Agriculture Alliance, presents an entirely different reality than that described by Novak.

“The study actually shows that just over half of respondents said the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list made them more likely to buy fruits and vegetables,” Temkin said. “Only about 1 in 6 said our report would make them less likely to buy products.”

Steps consumers can take

In addition to eating organic, consumers can take a number of steps to reduce exposure to pesticides — and many other toxins such as heavy metals — that can be found in produce.
Dirty Dozen 2022: Producing with the most and the least pesticides

Rinse all produce before serving. Don’t use soap, detergent or commercial laundry detergent – water is the best choice, experts say.

“Soap and household detergents can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, despite thorough rinsing, and can make you sick. Drug Administration said.

Choose local. According to experts, buying food purchased directly from a local farmer can reduce the risk of exposure to pesticides.

Buy in season. Prices fall when fruits and vegetables are seasonal and plentiful. Now is a good time to buy organic foods in bulk and then freeze or can them for future use, experts suggest.

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