How to Lower Your Exposure to Pesticides

There are an astonishing 165 different types of pesticides used on conventionally grown fruit and vegetable crops in the United States. And while purchasing only organic produce would alleviate the concerns of synthetic pesticide exposure, the reality is that due to cost, this is not feasible for a large percentage of the population.

But there is hope for decreasing exposure thanks to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. To accomplish this mission, it annually analyzes the amount of pesticides that remain on popular fresh produce items.

The items that have the most pesticides can be found on the “Dirty Dozen” list, while those with the least pesticides are part of the “Clean Fifteen.”  If your budget permits, purchasing organic for the items on the “Dirty Dozen” would yield the greatest decrease in pesticide exposure. 

Examples of produce found on the “Dirty Dozen” include:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes

Sample of items on the “Clean Fifteen” are:

  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Onions

While it is important to watch for pesticide consumption, it is imperative to emphasize that this list is meant to serve as a tool to educate consumers. Having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is critical, so even if you are unable to stretch your budget to purchase anything organic, just make sure to thoroughly wash all produce before eating.

For additional information and a complete list of the 48 items tested, visit EWG.org.

— By Rebecca Levens, MS (’14), Bastyr dietetic intern, and Amy Frasieur, MS, RD, core faculty in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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