Have you heard of “The Dirty Dozen”? No, not the 1967 movie. Every year, Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list of the top twelve produce items that contain the most pesticide residue of forty-eight fruits and vegetables tested by the US Department of Agriculture. In 2017, one hundred seventy-eight different pesticides were found in the produce tested. In fact, 70% of the items tested contained at least one. This residue remains even after we clean and peel produce. (1)
Opposite to the Dirty Dozen is the Clean Fifteen: a list of fifteen popular items that test with the least amount of contaminants. Foods on this list are safest to eat if conventionally grown from a pesticide perspective. You can find EWG’s Clean Fifteen list here.
What’s the Risk?
Pesticides kill weeds, insects, fungus, rodents, and more. Safe to say, they’re not friendly to living creatures. Without these natural predators and pests, crops grow more quickly and effectively.
Although these foods are meant for human consumption, they aren’t exactly safe for humans either.
According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine:
“Pesticides may also cause harm. Some can damage the environment and accumulate in ecosystems. And depending on dose, some pesticides can cause a range of adverse effects on human health, including cancer, acute and chronic injury to the nervous system, lung damage, reproductive dysfunction, and possibly dysfunction of the endocrine and immune systems.” (2)
Pesticide toxicity in children is of special concern, as their metabolisms and growth are different from adults. Acceptable pesticide residue levels that have been established by the US government don’t take this fact into account. However, a special National Academy of Sciences committee was convened to discover how pesticides specifically affect children (0-18).