The Dirty Dozen: Produce With the Highest Pesticide Levels in 2013

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fruits_and_vegetables.jpg

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fruits_and_vegetables.jpg

Every year, the USDA tests produce for pesticide levels and the Environmental Wellness Group (“EWG”) publishes The Dirty Dozen (plus 2) list. This list informs consumers of the 14 fruits and vegetables that were conventionally grown — not organic — that show the highest levels of pesticides present when they hit your cart in the supermarket. This produce is tested based on how it is typically eaten, meaning that bananas are tested after being peeled and blueberries are tested after being washed. In fact, the Environmental Wellness Group makes it clear that all of their produce has been thoroughly washed before being tested. Before we get to the list, let’s look at the scary truth about why it matters and what you can do.

Why Does It Matter?

Pesticides have been proven to have adverse effects on people. Many of the pesticides are carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, and developmental or reproductive toxins. Children are particularly affected by pesticides, though adults certainly don’t escape these effects. The Environmental Wellness Group outlines some of the dangers of pesticides from different studies conducted over the years. Columbia University has found that deficits in IQ and working memory in 2011 seven-year-old children are linked to prenatal exposure to the pesticide chorpyrifos.

This is found in many foods, including apples, bell peppers, leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, etc.), peaches, and, among many other vegetables, even in catfish and pork. This pesticide was used as household pest control until the EPA banned it in 2001, but is still showing up in our food. Mt. Sinai Medical Center researchers have linked impaired nonverbal problem solving skills with prenatal organophosphate (a whole class of pesticides) exposure. Harvard University researchers have showed that children exposed to typical levels of organophosphates in American produce have increased risk for ADHD. The EWG cites a study published by the CDC in 2009, reporting that they “detected pesticides in blood and urine samples from 96 percent of a sample size of over 5,000 Americans age 6 and older.”

So What Can You Do?

The Dirty Dozen (plus 2) lists the 14 types of conventionally-grown produce with the highest levels of pesticide, but there are conventional fruits and vegetables on the “Clean 15″ list that have substantially lower levels of pesticide on your plate. Since the produce is all thoroughly washed or peeled before testing, a good scrub in your sink won’t remove the toxins before you consume them. The bottom line is that if you buy these 14 fruits and vegetables conventionally grown, you’re going to be consuming the pesticides. Unless the pesticides are restricted or banned, the only way to avoid them is to buy organically grown produce.

Why organic? Simply put, a big part of what makes produce organic is that it hasn’t been grown using these toxic pesticides. The EWG cites a study out of Emory University, which found that the high levels of organophosphate pesticides in elementary school-age kids essentially disappeared completely after only five days of eating an all-organic diet. Seriously. After a single “work week” of eating only organic produce, their pesticide-ridden bodies were almost completely free of the ADHD-causing, IQ-lowering carcinogenic toxins.

Here are the 14 fruits and vegetables that you should buy organic to avoid toxic pesticides with breakdowns of health effects for each from What’s On My Food, a project of the Pesticide Action Network.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tannazie/2712454949/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tannazie/2712454949/

14. Imported Nectarines 

What’s in my Food shows that 53.2 percent of nectarines tested contain Formetanate Hydrochloride. The EPA cites a study on dogs that reports wheezing, excessive drooling, labored breathing, trembling, vomiting, and coughing.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 33 pesticides in nectarines.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
19 are suspected hormone disruptors
are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
14 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malbec

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malbec

13. Grapes 

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 34 pesticides in grapes.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
17 are suspected hormone disruptors
10 are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
14 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vegan-baking/8681613973/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vegan-baking/8681613973/

12. Cucumbers 

Out of all cucumbers tested, 45.3 percent of them contained Endosulfan, a chemical the U.S. EPA has been trying to ban since 2010. The Pesticide Action Network explains that endosulfan can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and in higher levels — unconsciousness and death.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 35 pesticides in cucumbers.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
25 are suspected hormone disruptors
12 are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
16 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9439733@N02/3756189570/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9439733@N02/3756189570/

11. Cherry Tomatoes

Like cucumbers, 17.2 percent of tomatoes tested contained Endosulfan.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 35 pesticides in tomatoes.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
14 are suspected hormone disruptors
are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
14 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India_-_Koyambedu_Market_-_Potatoes_01_(3987050638).jpg

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India_-_Koyambedu_Market_-_Potatoes_01_(3987050638).jpg

10. Potatoes

According to What’s On My Food, 75.7 percent of potatoes tested contained the pesticide Chlorpropham. This pesticide is used on potatoes, says the EPA, because it allows potatoes to be stored longer without sprouting — this way, old potatoes can be sold in stores. The EPA also cites a study in which beagles were fed chlorpropham for 60 weeks, which resulted in anemia and changes in thyroid function and structure.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 37 pesticides in potatoes.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
12 are suspected hormone disruptors
are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
11 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sackton/6019334210/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sackton/6019334210/

9. Summer Squash (DD+)

Including zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, summer squash has been found to contain residues of organochlorine pesticides that were banned in the 1970s and ’80s that still lingered in farms tested in 2008. This veggie is in the Dirty Dozen Plus category, the EWG says, because though it didn’t meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria, it was “commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.”

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 41 pesticide residues on summer squash.

Health Effect Breakdown: 
are known or probable carcinogens
17 are suspected hormone disruptors
are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
17 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/4319949887/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/4319949887/

8. Apples

Out of all the apples tested, 87.9 percent contained Thiabendazole, which has been shown by the EPA to be carcinogenic and cause hormone disturbances. The Extension Toxicology Network of Cornell states that higher doses resulted in eclampsia in pregnant sheep — and yes, eclampsia is what Sybil died of in Downton Abbey.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 42 pesticides in apples.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
19 are suspected hormone disruptors
10 are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
17 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spinach_leaves.jpg

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spinach_leaves.jpg

7. Spinach

According to What’s On My Food, the pesticide Permethrin was found in 52.5 percent of spinach tested. The U.S. EPA declares that this toxin can alter nerve function and is listed as a “likely carcinogen to humans.” The NPIC claims that ingesting Permethrin can lead to a sore throat, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 48 pesticides in fresh spinach and 42 in frozen spinach.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
25 are suspected hormone disruptors
are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
23 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Washing_bell_peppers.jpg

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spinach_leaves.jpg

6. Sweet Bell Peppers

According to What’s On My Food, the pesticide Imidacloprid was found in 80.6 percent of conventionally grown peppers tested. The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) lists the following results or reported symptoms of imidacloprid. Farm workers have reported eye irritation, dizziness, breathlessness, confusion, and vomiting after being exposed to the pesticide.

After oral exposure to imidacloprid, which is an ingredient in some flea control products, some pet owners have reported vomiting and excessive drooling in their pets. If enough is consumed, it can lead to fatigue, trouble walking, and tumor growth. When researchers exposed pregnant rats and rabbits to imidacloprid, their offspring showed signs of reduced growth.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 49 pesticide residues on sweet bell peppers.

Health Effect Breakdown: 
11 are known or probable carcinogens
26 are suspected hormone disruptors
13 are neurotoxins
10 are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
19 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a6u571n/3351310627/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a6u571n/3351310627/

5. Hot Peppers

The specific breakdown of pesticides in hot peppers was not available, but the EWG did report that hot peppers are sometimes treated with as many as 97 different pesticides.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strawberries.jpg

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strawberries.jpg

4. Strawberries

According to What’s On My Food, the pesticide Captan was found in 55.1 percent of strawberries tested. The NPIC says the U.S. EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, classifies captan as a probable carcinogen. It has been proven to induce various types of tumors in rats and mice. When fed large amounts of captan, pregnant rabbits were subject to spontaneous abortion and deformed offspring. Dogs fed large amounts of captan over a 48-week period showed smaller livers and kidneys than dogs not fed captan.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 54 pesticides in strawberries.

Health Effect Breakdown:
are known or probable carcinogens
24 are suspected hormone disruptors
11 are neurotoxins
12 are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
19 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tasselflower/9515109755/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tasselflower/9515109755/

3. Leafy Greens (DD+)

The EWG specifically notes kale and collards; spinach is listed separately and higher up the list (spoiler alert). Like summer squash, kale and collards are in the Dirty Dozen Plus category, the EWG says because though it didn’t meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria, it was “commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.”

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 55 pesticides in kale and 46 in collards.

Health Effect Breakdown of Kale:
are known or probable carcinogens
27 are suspected hormone disruptors
10 are neurotoxins
10 are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
23 of these affect honeybees

Health Effect Breakdown of Collards: 
are known or probable carcinogens
25 are suspected hormone disruptors
10 are neurotoxins
are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
25 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peach

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peach

2. Peaches

According to What’s On My Food, 47.6 percent of peaches tested contained the toxin Fludioxonil. The Fluoride Action Network Pesticide Project reports a “statistically significant trend for malignant lymphomas in female mice and statistically significant increased in liver tumors in female rats” due to fludioxonil. The pesticide has also shown to increase cholesterol in dogs.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 62 pesticides in peaches.

Health Effect Breakdown:
10 are known or probable carcinogens
29 are suspected hormone disruptors
12 are neurotoxins
11 are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
25 of these affect honeybees

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattieb/261857776/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattieb/261857776/

1. Celery 

One hundred percent of celery tested contained the pesticides Chlorantraniliprole and Spinosad.  Though tests have not yet proven adverse effects in humans from these, 41.8 percent of celery tested also contained Permethrin, a likely carcinogen and suspected hormone disruptor.

Pesticide Count: The USDA found 64 pesticides in celery.

Health Effect Breakdown:
13 are known or probable carcinogens
31 are suspected hormone disruptors
12 are neurotoxins
14 are developmental or reproductive toxins

Environmental toxins: 
20 of these affect honeybees

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