The old adage about keeping the doctor away does not take into account the potentially harmful effects of pesticide residue on apples and many other fruits and vegetables.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non profit that uses the power of public information to protect public health and the environment, has been publishing reports on pesticide use in the US for the past 15 years. The latest report contains a list of its “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” fruits and vegetables.
As their names allude, the dirty dozen are the most heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables. And at the top of the list are apples. After analyzing USDA data, EWG concluded that 98% of apples in the US have a pesticide residue, even after being washed in water.
Grapes, strawberries, potatoes, and oranges are not far behind.
On the bright side, avocados, corn, sweet peas, mushrooms and watermelon are rather clean.
What you need to know:
Pesticides are toxic. They kill pests that would otherwise eat and blemish parts of your fruit or lettuce. But unfortunately, pesticides are also toxic to humans. The USDA has set maximum levels of pesticide presence in products to ensure that exposure levels are very low.
However, even these low pesticide residue levels may be harming our health:
“I really worry that pesticides on food are unhealthy for the tender, developing brains and bodies of young children,” said Dr. Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP, creator of the book/DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block. “Parents don’t realize they’re often feeding their little ones fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide residues. Studies show even small amounts of these chemicals add up and can impair a child’s health when they’re exposed during the early, critical stages of their development. When pesticide sprayers have to bundle up in astronaut-like suits for protection, it’s clear parents want to feed their families food containing as little of these toxic chemicals as possible.”
Consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG’s Clean 15 list rather than from the Dirty Dozen can lower the volume of pesticides they consume by 92 percent, according to EWG’s calculations.
While all of the above is true, we don’t think parents need to reach the conclusion not to feed their children fruits and vegetables.
What to do at the supermarket:
Obviously, buying organic is the surefire way to avoid pesticides. But 99.9% of us won’t pay the high price for an all organic diet.
“Though buying organic is always the best choice, we know that sometimes people do not have access to that produce or cannot afford it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce, and lets them know which fruits and vegetables they may want to buy organic.”
Don’t stop buying fresh produce just because of the fear of pesticides. Make sure you wash fruits and vegetables as best you can, buy in season to lower costs, and where you can splurge on organic.