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Pesticides and Our Crops
Health compiled by the Environment Working Group from FDA and EPA sources on pesticide levels in common crops
In today's society we hear often the term pesticides. What are pesticides? Pesticides are harmful chemicals that are sprayed on produce to prevent insects from destoying the crop. That seems kind of odd doesn't it? Putting harmful chemicals on food that we will eventually consume. Do they realize that if insects and bugs are running away from these deadly chemicals what the chemicals would do in our bodies. Pesticides are a big business and in theworld of greed - money seems to be the biggest motivating factor.
How can we avoid the pesticide produce?
Organic produce is the best produce to purchase. Specifically look for certified organic growers or better yet grow the fruits and vegetables yourself so you can be assured that your produce is safe.
Of course in an imperfect world we can't always eat organic or have the good fortune of growing our own produce, so keeping that in mind, I have provided a list from the Environmental Working Group, compiled from FDA and EPA data.
Enjoy or should I say avoid ...
|2||Bell Peppers (tie)||155|
Strawberry growers everywhere use large amounts of pesticides, particularly fungicides. The end result is a popular fruit that contains a myriad of toxic chemicals. Of the 42 fruits and vegetables we examined, strawberries ranked first in combined contamination,with 189 out of 200 possible points.
70% of the strawberry samples tested positive for one or more pesticides, and 36% contained two or more chemicals, including 19 samples with four pesticides, four samples with five, and one with six different pesticides. The FDA detected 30 different pesticides on strawberries, second only to apples with 36. More significant, however, is the toxicity of the pesticides detected and the percentage of the crop and levels at which they are found. Based on the results of 361 samples of strawberries by the FDA over a two year period:
Strawberries had the highest average levels by far of pesticides that disrupt the endocrine system. The mean amount of endocrine disrupters was more than 20% higher than the next vegetable, spinach. The carcinogenic potency of the average residue on strawberries ranked seventh overall. The neurotoxic potency of the pesticides on strawberries was 15th out of the 42 produce items evaluated.
Sweet peppers (or bell peppers) from the US and Mexico constitute approximately 98% of US sweet pepper consumption, and have a considerably worse pesticide profile than peppers from any other country.
64% of the sweet pepper crop from the US and Mexico contained residues of at least one pesticide, and 36% contain two or more pesticides. Of the 393 samples taken between 1992 and 1993, 11 contained residues of five different pesticides and 3 samples had residues of six pesticides. In total, 26 pesticides were detected on US and Mexican sweet peppers.
The neurotoxic potency of pesticide residues on US and Mexican sweet peppers was the highest of any crop tested - 65% higher than the potency for the next highest food. Methamidophos was found on 42% of the samples, acephate was found on 25%, carbaryl on 18%, and chlorpyrifos and dimethoate on 10%. Endocrine disrupters ranked 12th out of 42 crops tested, while the cancer potency of the average residue was relatively low at 32nd out of 42.
Spinach has residues of fewer pesticides than other crops in the list of the twelve most contaminated, but the concentrations for certain cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals are considerably higher than those for other produce. Just over 50% of the spinach samples tested positive for one of 17 different pesticides. 17% contained two to four pesticides.
The most commonly detected pesticide on spinach was permethrin, a possible human carcinogen and endocrine disrupter. Permethrin was found in relatively large amounts, which helped make spinach second only to strawberries in the total mean residue of endocrine disrupters and reproductive toxins. The neurotoxic potency of the average residue, in contrast, was 28th out of the 42 crops tested.
The cancer potency of the average total residue on spinach was the highest of any of the produce analyzed. And actual levels of carcinogens on spinach are likely to be higher than we estimated. One reason is that chlorothanonil, a probable human carcinogen, was found at relatively high levels on several spinach samples. The FDA, however, tested only 17 out of 189 samples for chlorothalonil. Because of our sample size requirement of 20 per pesticide/crop combination, these results were not included in the overall ranking.
Spinach also had relatively high levels of DDT, which was found in 10% of 186 samples.
Cherries grown in the United States have a far different pesticide profile than those that are imported. While imported cherries are among the cleanest fruits and vegetables analyzed, US cherries are the fourth worst. The detections on domestic cherries reveal a panoply of pesticides - 26 different pesticides, more than three times the number found on imported cherries.
71% of US - grown samples contained residues of one or more pesticides, compared with 35% of imported samples. More significantly, almost half of all US cherries are likely to contain multiple pesticide residues, whereas, in comparison, only 2% of imported cherries contained more than one pesticide. Up to five pesticides were found on single domestic cherry samples.
Domestically grown cherries rank fourth in terms of cancer potency of the average residue, ninth in average amount of endocrine disrupters and reproductive toxins, and 14th in neurotoxic potency of the average residue.
The summer peach. So juicy, so tasty ... so full of pesticides. Peaches ranked high in each of the seven categories we examined. 71% of the peach crop sampled by the FDA tested positive for pesticides, fifth among the 42 fruits and vegetables analyzed. 32% of samples contained two or more pesticides, including six samples with five, two samples with six, and one peach sample with residues of seven pesticides, the highest multiple residue in a single sample found by the FDA over the two year testing period (along with two apple samples). In total, 26 different pesticides were found on peaches.
Many of the most commonly detected chemicals are probable human carcinogens, most notably iprodione and captan. Peaches ranked sixth in cancer potency of the average residue, and eleventh for the average residue of endocrine disrupters and twelfth inpotency of the average neurotoxic residue.
Nearly 15% of cantaloupes consumed each year in the United States come from Mexico. Compared to US grown cantaloupe, Mexico melons are much more contaminated with pesticides.
76% of the samples tested positive for at least one pesticide, number three overall. And this may be an underestimate. 100% of 70 samples tested positive for chlorothalonil, a probable human carcinogen. These 70 samples, however, are just 40% of the 173 samples of cantaloupes from Mexico tested by the FDA during 1992-1993.
48% of cantaloupes from Mexico tested positive for two or more pesticides, more than any other crop analyzed. Up to five different pesticides were found on single samples of cantaloupe from Mexico. In contrast, just 47% of cantaloupe grown in theUS contained any pesticide, and only 16% of domestic samples contained two or more pesticides.
Cantaloupes from Mexico ranked number two for the neurotoxic potency of the average residue. The average residue of endocrine disrupters was 13th out of the 42crops analyzed, while the cancer potency of the average residue was 26th of 42 crops.
Nearly every bite of celery we take is also a bite of pesticides. 81% of the 188 celery samples tested positive for pesticide residues, more than any other crop analyzed. And, an analysis of detection rates for some pesticides reveals that this figure may be too low. For example, 91 out of 94 (96%) of domestic and imported celery samples were positive for for the probable human carcinogen chlorothalonil. Overall, however, this amounted to about one half of the 182 samples of celery that were tested for pesticides by the FDA.
FDA's lack of testing for some heavily used pesticides makes crops appear to have fewer pesticides on them than they actually do. Even with this caveat, 35% of celery samples contained residues of two or more pesticides, and up to five different pesticides were found on a single sample.
Celery ranked third in the neurotoxic potency of the average residue, 14th in the cancer potency of the average residue, and 20th out of 42 for the average residue of endocrine disrupters.
Apples are the quintessential American fruit. Apple pie, apple sauce, theapple of my eye, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples also have more different pesticides on them than any other fruit or vegetable - 36 different pesticides according to FDA data - and morepesticides (7) found on a single sample than any other crop. 61% of apple samples tested positive for pesticides, and multiple pesticides on single samples are common. 33% of apple samples contained two or more pesticides, 18 samples had five, five had six, and two samples were contaminated with seven different pesticides.
Of the thirty six pesticides detected on apples, eight are classified by the EPA as possible or probable human carcinogens, and 15 are neurotoxic organophosphate insecticides. Apples also contain a high concentration of endocrine disrupters. Apples ranked tenth in average residue of endocrine disrupting pesticides, 16th in the neurotoxic potency of the average residue, and 23rd in the cancer potency of the average residue.
Apricots contain consistently high levels of multiple pesticides, including carcinogens like captan on 35% of all samples. 64% of the FDA samples contained one or more pesticides, and 38% had two or three residues. Fourteen different pesticides were detected on apricots.
Apricots ranked eighth out of 42 fruits and vegetables in average residue of endocrine disrupting pesticides, 19th in the neurotoxic potency of the average residue, and tenth in the cancer potency of the average residue.
Twenty-three different pesticides were detected on green bean samples in 1992 and 1993. 18% of these samples had residues of more than one pesticide - up to four on a single sample. More than 13% of samples contained residues of three pesticides, and 28% of samples tested positive for chlorothalonil, a probable human carcinogen.
Green beans ranked fifth out of 42 crops in the neurotoxic potency of the average residue, sixth in average residue of endocrine disrupting pesticides, and 19th in the cancer potency of the average residue.
From January through April, 90% of the grapes eaten in the United States are from Chile, where growers use less sophisticated pest control techniques than grape growers in the United States. Consequently, a far higher percentage of Chilean crop tests positive for pesticides.
According to the FDA, 79% of grapes grown in Chile contained pesticide residues in 1992 and 1993, the second highest of all 42 fruits and vegetables analyzed. 46% of the Chilean samples contained two or more pesticides, with up to six different pesticides found on a single sample of Chilean grapes. In contrast, only 17% of the US grapes contained detectable residues, and only 6% contained multiple residues. In total, seventeen different pesticides were found on the Chilean crop.
The probable human carcinogens captan and iprodione were found on 64 and 28% of Chilean grape samples respectively, compared with 4-5% of all samples of domestically grown grapes, respectively. 27% of Chilean grapes contained the endocrine disrupting fungicide vinclozolin, compared to just one sample (less than one%) of grapes from the United States.
The cancer potency of the average residue on Chilean grapes was 11th out of 42crops, and the average load of endocrine disrupting pesticides was 19th. The neurotoxic potency of the average residue was in the bottom third of all crops evaluated, at 30th.
Cucumbers complete the list of the twelve most contaminated due primarily to residues of a cancer causing insecticide, dieldrin, that was banned in the United States over 20 years ago. Even though dieldrin is not directly applied to the crop, it is persistent in the soil and is taken up by cucumbers. One out of every 14 cucumber samples from across the United States andMexico contained residues of this highly toxic compound. As a result, cucumbers ranked number two in cancer risk of all 42 crops evaluated.
Most other results are in the middle of the pack. Cucumbers rank 23rd for residues of endocrine disrupting pesticides, and 22nd for neurotoxic potency of the average residue. 40% of cucumbers had detectable residues, according to the FDA, and12% of samples had two or more residues detected. Twenty different pesticides were found on cucumbers over the two year period from 1992 through 1993.
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