From Green Right Now Reports

Apples (GRN photo)

These Organic apples come without the pesticide residues.

Apples, strawberries, grapes and celery. All of these are healthy foods, but unfortunately they arrive at the grocery with the highest pesticide residues and top the latest “Dirty Dozen” list released by the Environmental Working Group.

The list, included in EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, rates 48 fruits and vegetables for pesticide contamination. It is based on the analysis of more than 28,000 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

The other Dirty Dozen foods that will need a thorough cleansing: Peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.

On the bright side, the EWG list also highlights an array of fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residues. The Clean Fifteen includes corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

How to use this information? You have two options. You can wash, wash, wash, or you can switch to organic apples, strawberries, grapes and so forth, following the Dirty Dozen list to make sure you’re avoiding the produce with the worst coating of pesticides.

Organic apples are increasingly available at all types of groceries, and that may be the best route to take because conventional apples, among other fruits and vegetables, come with a waxy coating that traps some of the pesticides. In addition, pesticides can seep into vegetables and fruits, especially soft fruits with thin skins, such as strawberries and peaches.

The EWG rating considered both residues on the fruits and the number of pesticides used in the field when the produce was grown. The group’s report also explains that the USDA actually tests washed and peeled fruits, still coming up with pesticide residues.

“Since government scientists wash or peel samples before testing them, pesticide measurements reflect the likely pesticide loads of produce when people eat it. EWG’s ranking uses six measures of pesticide hazards, among them, the number of pesticides detected on a crop and the percent of samples testing positive.”

Although a study last year by Stanford physicians found that there was little difference between the quality of fruits and vegetables grown conventionally and those grown organically, the EWG scientists note that pesticide residues are intrinsically unhealthy.

“Pesticides are toxic by design and created expressly to kill living organisms — insects, plants and fungi that are considered “pests.” Many pesticides pose health dangers to people and have been linked to brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, and eye and lung irritation.”

In addition to the Dirty Dozen list, EWG issued a special warning about two other types of crops, domestically grown squash and leafy greens, namely kale and collards.

These crops did not meet the criteria for being included on the Dirty Dozen list, but were contaminated with pesticides that are “exceptionally toxic to the nervous system,” the scientists reported.

“In the most recent USDA tests for kale and collards, conducted in 2008, some samples were found to be contaminated with organophosphate pesticides. Organophosphate pesticides are potent neurotoxins that can affect children’s IQ and brain development, even at low doses. Over the past decade organophosphates have been withdrawn from many agricultural uses and banned for home pesticide use but still be applied to certain commercial crops.

“Banned organochlorine pesticides were detected on nearly 20 percent of the samples of zucchini and crookneck squash in 2008. Imported summer squash were cleaner. Most organochlorine pesticides were widely applied in the 1940s through 1970s but withdrawn from use after studies revealed them to be highly toxic to people and wildlife. They are extremely persistent in the environment and still pollute produce grown in contaminated soils.

The group also reported that American baby food samples tested in 2011 turned up some “troubling” results.

Green beans prepared for baby food tested positive for five pesticides, including the toxic organophosphates methamidophos and acephate. These chemicals were detected on 14 and 13 percent of samples respectively, though the EPA and producers have “voluntarily agreed” to remove these two chemicals from agricultural use, according to the EWG.

But while green beans may be getting cleaner, baby food pear samples tested positive for 11 pesticides, including iprodione, classified as a probable carcinogen and not registered for use on pears.

Finally EWG warned that consumers wanting to avoid genetically modified foods should be aware that much of the Hawaiian papaya crop, as well as some zucchini and sweet corn varieties are now GMOs. Buying organic is, again, a way around this issue, because GMO foods are not labeled in the U.S..