Dirty Dozen 2022: The product with the most and least insecticides

Cherries came in eighth this year on the list of the 12 most contaminated foods, with peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes complete the list.

But do not stop eating these foods, which are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants needed to fight chronic diseases, experts say.

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

“Several peer-reviewed and clinical trials have looked at what happens when people switch to a fully organic diet,” she said. “Concentrations and measurements of pesticides decrease very rapidly.”

Consumers can also view the “Clean Fifteen” from the EEC – a list of products that contain the least amount of insecticide. Almost 70% of the fruits and vegetables on the list had no detectable pesticide residues, but almost 5% had residues of two or more pesticides, the report said.

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

Many insecticides

Published annually since 2004, the EWG report uses test data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sort out 46 foods that are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues. USDA staff prepares food as consumers would – wash, peel or scrub – before tasting each item.

The USDA does not sample all 46 foods each year, so the EWG deducts results from the last trial period. Strawberries, for example, have not been tested by the USDA since 2016, Temkin said.

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

Tests found the highest amount of many insecticides – 103 – on samples of the heart-healthy trio of kale, cabbage and mustard green, followed by 101 different pesticides on hot and peppers. In general, “spinach samples had 1.8 times more weight of insecticides by weight than any other crop tested,” the report said.

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Exposure to many pesticides, even in small amounts, is a “super-additive” as each pesticide has a greater health effect than it could in isolation, said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief physician for pediatricians at NYU Langone, who was not involved in the report.

Health risks of insecticides

The health risk of pesticides depends on the species, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Pesticides can affect the nervous system, irritate the eyes and skin, disrupt the body’s hormonal system or cause cancer, the EPA said.
The pesticide DCPA, which the EPA has classified as a potential carcinogen in humans and banned in 2009 by the European Union, was often found on cabbage, mustard kale and kale, according to an EWG report.
Chlorpyrifos, an insecticide often used on peanut and fruit trees and crops such as broccoli and cauliflower, was banned by the EPA in February 2022 after a 15-year effort by environmental groups.
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Chlorpyrifos contains enzymes “that lead to neurotoxicity and have also been linked to potential neurodevelopmental effects in children,” the EPA said.

Children and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides, experts say, because of the damage the substances can cause to brain development. The 2020 study found an increase in IQ loss and developmental disabilities in children due to exposure to organic phosphates, a common class of pesticides.

A large number of insecticides also affect the endocrine system in developing a fetus, which can interfere with development, reproduction and metabolism.

“Even short-term exposure to endocrine disruptors can have a lasting effect if exposure occurs at a critical time in the reproductive system,” according to the EPA.

Complaints from the industry

The agricultural industry has long complained about the publication of “Dirty Dozen” and says the EWG “intentionally” misrepresents USDA data in the report.

“To put it simply, the EWG’s attempt to turn data into bias … is leading to growing consumer fears about fruit and vegetables,” said Chris Novak, president and CEO of CropLife America, the national association of manufacturers representing manufacturers and developers. . and distributors of pesticides.

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“A study found that specifically mentioning ‘Dirty Dozen’ made buyers less likely to buy ANY vegetables and fruits, not just those listed,” Novak said in an email.

In response, the EWG said that the study, which was funded by another industry organization, the Alliance for Food and Farming, showed a completely different reality than Novak describes.

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

Steps that consumers can take

In addition to eating organically, there are a number of measures that consumers can take to reduce exposure to pesticides – and many other toxins such as heavy metals – that are found in production.
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Rinse all products before serving. Do not use soap, detergent or detergent for commercial purposes – water is the best choice, experts say.

“Soap and household detergents can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, despite careful rinsing, and can cause illness. The safety of commercial laundry detergents is also unknown and their effectiveness has not been tested,” the US Food and Drug Administration said. said the Icelandic Medicines Agency.

Select locally. Buying food purchased directly from a local farmer can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure, experts say.

Buy on a seasonal basis. Prices fall when there are fruits and vegetables in season and enough. This is a good time to buy organic food in bulk, then freeze or can use it in the future, experts point out.

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