As with last year’s Shopper’s Guide, kale ranks third on
the 2020 Dirty Dozen list. Even as kale’s popularity as a health food rich in vitamins and antioxidants has soared in recent years, the level and type of pesticide residues on kale has expanded significantly. In USDA’s most recent tests, the pesticide most frequently
detected on kale was DCPA, sold under the brand name Dac- thal. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies DCPA as a possible human carcinogen, and in 2009 the European Union banned it.
Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and
vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet. However, many crops contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after washing, peeling or scrubbing, which the USDA does before testing each item. Since pesticide contamination varies by crop, it is important to understand which items are most or least contaminated.
Also important to note is that the USDA does not test for all pesticides used in crop production. Notably, it does not analyze glyphosate, or Roundup, the most heavily used pesti- cide in the U.S., but high levels can be found in several grains and beans, such as oats and chickpeas, due to its increasing use as a pre-harvest drying agent.
EWG's Dirty Dozen for 2020
Strawberries Spinach Kale Nectarines Apples Grapes Peaches Cherries Pears Tomatoes Celery Potatoes + Hot Peppers
Of the 47 items included in our analysis, these Dirty
Dozen foods were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops, according to our analysis of USDA data. (The rankings are based not only on the percentage of samples with pesticides but also on the number and amount of pesticides on all samples and on individual samples.) Key findings:
• More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
• Multiple samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides.
• On average, kale and spinach samples had 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.
EWG's Clean Fifteen for 2020
Avocados Sweet corn Pineapple Onions Papaya Sweet peas (frozen) Eggplants Asparagus Cauliflower Cantaloupes Broccoli
Mushrooms Cabbage Honeydew melon Kiwi
These 15 items had the lowest amounts of pesticide residues, according to EWG’s analysis of the most recent USDA data. Key findings:
• Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Fewer than 2 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
• With the exception of cabbage, all other products on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for four or fewer pesticides.
• Almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.
• Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 7 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.
Health Benefits of Reducing Dietary Pesticide Exposure Eating organic food reduces pesticide exposure and is linked
to a variety of health benefits, according to an article published this year in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients.2 In four separate clinical trials, people who switched from conventional to or- ganic foods saw a rapid and dramatic reduction in their urinary pesticide concentrations, a marker of pesticide exposure. Addi- tional studies have linked higher consumption of organic foods to lower urinary pesticide levels, improved fertility and birth outcomes, reduced incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lower BMI. Researchers from Harvard University used USDA test data and methods similar to ours to classify produce as having high or low pesticides. Remarkably, their lists of high and low pesticide crops largely overlap with our Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
Fertility Studies' Classification of Pesticide Residues
High pesticide residue score: Apples, apple sauces, blueberries, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, pears, peaches, potatoes, plums, spinach, strawber- ries, raisins, sweet peppers, tomatoes, winter squashes
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