Between 2000 and 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 53 popular fruits and vegetables, to find those that had high levels of pesticides.
If, in your quest to reduce exposure to pesticides, it’s not possible for you to eat organic food and vegetables (at least for the 10 fruit and vegetables below) all the time, at least try to always eat locally grown produce from reasonable agriculture.
Understanding the impact of pesticides:
Why are pesticides toxic? Because they were created to kill living organisms (plants, weeds and insects that attack crops), pesticides present a danger to man as well. Pesticides are accused of provoking nervous system problems, cancer, and hormonal deregulation. Therefore it’s important to avoid pesticides as far as possible, and above all avoid accumulating them in the body.
Should we stop eating fruit and vegetables? Of course, not – fruit and vegetables are essential human foods, and guarantee good health while preventing a number of diseases. The benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables remain higher than the known risks involved with pesticide exposure. That being said, by eating organic produce, we can avoid most pesticides.
Is washing and peeling my fruit and vegetables effective against pesticides? Not really, as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) study was carried out with washed fruit and vegetables. And while washing all your fruit and vegetables before eating is definitely necessary, systematically peeling them is not the best solution because most of the vitamins and antioxidants are found in the skin. In addition, many fruits and vegetables store the pesticides in the flesh as well.
The ten most polluted fruit and veg:
Apples: More than 700 apple samples were tested by the EWG. 98% of them contained traces of pesticides and 92% contained at least 2 different types of pesticide. Along with peaches, apples are one of the most highly pesticide treated fruits, with not less than 56 different chemical substances being employed.
Blueberries: With their porous and fragile skin, blueberries hold pesticides deep within them. And what about frozen blueberries? While blueberries are often found in the frozen section of your supermarket, it’s best to avoid them as freezing helps preserve the pesticides too.
Celery: 96% of the celery samples tested positive for pesticides and nearly 90% contained a number of different types of pesticide. The problem with celery is that it takes time to arrive at maturity and is thus exposed to pesticides for a longer period than other vegetables.
Grapes: On one sample of grapes imported from the US, 14 different pesticides were detected. The presence of these traces is partly explained by the grape’s thin skin, that lets pesticides into the flesh. However, grapes produced locally in France showed that only 17.5% of samples contained traces of pesticides, while a study of European non-organic grapes showed that 99.2% of the samples were contaminated with pesticides.
Nectarines: 90.8% of the nectarines tested contained traces of at least two types of different pesticides. While the results don’t actually exceed authorised limits for each individual pesticide, these traces can still pose a problem as they become more powerful when combined with each other.
Peaches: 85.6% of the tested peaches contained traces of at least two different types of pesticide. With their thin skins, peaches are more receptive to absorbing pesticides.
Strawberries: On a single sample of strawberries, some 13 different types of pesticides were detected. And while you can wash a strawberry, you probably wouldn’t want to try peeling one!
Peppers: During this study, one sample of peppers contained more than 13 different chemical substances. During the European study, the pepper shone as the vegetable containing the highest number of pesticide traces – 21 in total. Unless they are organic, avoid red and yellow peppers if you can, as they are more mature versions of the green pepper and thus have more exposure time to the pesticides.
Potatoes: Like all vegetables that grow directly in the earth, potatoes are more exposed to pesticides than other above ground vegetables. And their skin is so thin, that they easily absorb a number of pesticides and fungicides. According to the EWG study, 91.4% of potatoes contained pesticide traces.
Spinach: As spinach also grows close to the earth, they are highly exposed to insects and are thus overly protected with pesticides.