Environmental Working Group releases new “dirty dozen”

The Environmental Working Group (EGW) released its new Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen as part of its 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, according to a March 20 announcement.

The group analyzes Department of Agriculture test data to identify which fruits and vegetables are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues. Those with the lowest amount of residues are dubbed the Clean Fifteen. Items with the highest amount of residues are deemed the Dirty Dozen, and consumers are encouraged to buy organic varieties.  

This year’s Dirty Dozen list puts a spotlight on kale, which is on the list for the first time in more than ten years, according to the EWG. This year, it ranks third. Also on the list are strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. The EWG also includes hot peppers as a “bonus” dirty dozen item.

On the “clean” list are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons.

The EWG does warn, however, that a small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the U.S. is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce, they said.

Since 2012, the American Academy of Pediatricians Council on Environmental Health has emphasized that children’s exposure to pesticides should be as limited as possible, because pesticide exposure during pregnancy and early childhood increases the risk of brain tumors, leukemia, neurodevelopmental defects, and other adverse birth outcomes, according to the EWG announcement.

USDA’s tests found a total of 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on popular fruits and vegetables Americans eat every day. Before testing, all produce was thoroughly washed and peeled, just as consumers would prepare food at home, showing that simple washing does not remove all pesticides, the EWG said.

The EWG recommends that whenever possible, consumers purchase organic versions of produce on the Dirty Dozen list. When organic versions are unavailable or not affordable, the EWG advises consumers to continue eating fresh produce, even if conventionally grown, because the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.