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Watch out for the 2012 'Dirty Dozen'
June 19th, 2012
07:11 AM ET

Watch out for the 2012 'Dirty Dozen'

Apples and celery are still agriculture’s dirtiest pieces of produce, according to the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” report. The report names the fruits and vegetables ranking highest in pesticide residue.

Cucumbers were added to the 2012 Dirty Dozen, while Kale and collard greens were moved from the list to join green beans in a new “Plus” category.

The category was created this year to highlight crops that did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but are still commonly contaminated with organophosphate insecticides, which are toxic to the nervous system.

Also included on the Dirty Dozen list are:

1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Sweet bell peppers

4. Peaches

5. Strawberries

6. Imported nectarines

7. Grapes

8. Spinach

9. Lettuce

10. Cucumbers

11. Domestic blueberries

12. Potatoes

And on the "Dirty Dozen Plus" list:

+ Green beans

+ Kale/collard greens

The fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticide residue make up a list of the “Clean 15":

1. Onions

2. Sweet corn

3. Pineapples

4. Avocado

5. Cabbage

6. Sweet peas

7. Asparagus

8. Mangoes

9. Eggplant

10. Kiwi

11. Domestic cantaloupe

12. Sweet potatoes

13. Grapefruit

14. Watermelon

15. Mushrooms

Although some switched spots within the ranks, the fruits and vegetables included on the lists stayed fairly consistent from the 2011 report.

The EWG report is based on pesticide residue data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, which tested samples as they normally would be eaten — after being washed or peeled.

The chronic health effects of pesticide intake have not been widely studied, but Chensheng Lu, an associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the toxins appear to be connected to a prevalence of diseases, including cancer. And some studies suggest pesticide intake, especially in the prenatal stage, can cause neurological developmental problems in infants, Lu said.

“Knowing that this chemical is designed to kill (certain) organisms, you have to be careful ingesting it,” he said.

With the release of this list, the EWG suggests consumers reduce their exposure to pesticides as much as possible by purchasing organic versions of the Dirty Dozen. Organic produce is grown using materials of plant or animal origin, instead of chemicals.

Organic produce is often thought of as more expensive than conventionally grown produce, but Lu said an increased demand in recent years has led to lower prices.

“You may want to think about saving money just for buying organic apples and not buying organic other stuff,” Lu said. “You switch your resources for the high risk produce and buy organic for those.”

For the first time this year, the USDA also collected data on pesticide residue in baby food, finding many of the studied samples to be contaminated with organophosphate pesticides. In its report, the EWG stresses the importance of accelerating testing of baby foods and asks the Environmental Protection Agency to focus on reducing the organophosphate pesticide exposure allowed for Americans, especially infants.


soundoff (218 Responses)
  1. VOTE FOR PETA

    God is punishing us for the murder of billions of animals. She gave us enough rope to hang ourselves.

    June 19, 2012 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • yummy

      mmmm...delicious animals!!!

      June 20, 2012 at 10:49 | Report abuse |
    • paulangle

      PETA People Eating Tasty Animals

      June 20, 2012 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
    • Irony

      With rampant contaminated vegetables and fruit, this sounds like even more reason to eat animals...

      June 20, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse |
    • SouthernCelt

      Since you are bringing religion into the argument, please re-read Genesis. Man/Adam was given dominion over the animals to do with as he sought fit to do. God is also not female which is why Jesus calls Him Our Father. Ignorant statements convince no one.

      June 24, 2012 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  2. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I HATE that bell peppers are so expensive! I haven't eaten one in an eternity because I cannot get myself to spend like $3 on one pepper!

    June 19, 2012 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tony

      So, grow some.

      June 19, 2012 at 19:57 | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      They are heavily contaminated with pesticide so not worth buying unless you get organic or grow your own.

      June 20, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  3. Harel

    Pesticides are designed to kill only "certain organisms". Doesn't apply to me because I'm a very uncertain organism! 🙂

    June 19, 2012 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Quoting

    Man all the things on the bad list I like and all the things on the good list I hate....WTH

    June 19, 2012 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. dennis barreiro

    I love fresh vegies ad fruit.I'm 60 and after all these years eating these veggies, who the heck cares now.WASH them always very well.

    June 20, 2012 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mr. hand

    OK, so, wash your fruit. Next.

    June 20, 2012 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Displeased

      You didn't read the entire article, did you?

      June 20, 2012 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Even after repeated washings residue of Dihydrogenmonoxide can still be found on fruits and vegetables. It's time that people wake up to this danger!

      June 27, 2012 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  7. Simply Not True

    The EWG's claims about residues are bogus. Check out what the folks at UC Davis have to say:

    "In summary, findings conclusively demonstrate that consumer exposures to the ten most frequently detected pesticides on EWG's “Dirty Dozen” commodity list are at negligible levels and that the EWG methodology is insufficient to allow any meaningful rankings among commodities" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135239/

    The EWG wants hard-working Americans to buy more expensive products based on false studies.....I wonder why???

    June 20, 2012 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zapper

      That was for the 2011 study. The methodology was improved this year.

      September 3, 2012 at 23:24 | Report abuse |
  8. Julie

    Well this ought to drive up Tombstone Pizza stock.
    Thanks EWGuys.

    June 20, 2012 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mike

    "toxins" misused in this article:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/toxin

    June 22, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hopefulspam

      Wow, I can't believe someone pointed it out before me!!! Genius!!! "Toxics", that's what they meant not "toxins"! Goofs...

      June 28, 2012 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
  10. Mc Guyver

    the EPA diffinition of a pesticide is any thing that attracts , repels, or kills a pest. If a person were to use a peice of the clean fruits and vegetables – even – organically grown- on a mouse trap then it would be magically transformed into a pesticide by technicle definition . Organophosphates are somthing to be concerned about though – you may or may not believe they cause cancer – well they can make you sick and it doesnt take as long as cancer , if you are injesting them they wil start to slow down your bodies functions – by blocking nerve impulses from your nerves to your muscles . organophosphates are supposed to be banned in the U.S. but many countries still use them. I am not against the use of pesticides – some of the ' green products are non toxic to fish and birds – and farmers need to protect their proffits and our food source – but the way to do it isnt allways a simple path. The word pesticide should be defined to the public in terms we can relate to – with specific rating scales – and eliminate non toxic products from its definition.

    June 22, 2012 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mc Guyver

    and for you that say just wash you fruit , if you spray foods that are still growing or are porous then you will find the organophosphates – if they were solvent based – in the food not just on the food.

    June 22, 2012 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. tmm

    Just wash your produce -really really- well before eating it. Especially when it comes to vegetables, I generally soak mine in cool water for about 10 minutes before eating it, and use a salad wringer to make sure the residue is completely washed away.

    June 27, 2012 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. hopefulspam

    I'm also concerned about the "inert" ingredients in pesticides (which can be more than 50% of the pesticide chemical), like benzene's and other PAHs that can cause cancer. The secret part of the pesticide recipe/residue.

    June 28, 2012 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RM

    Eat your veggies children.

    July 3, 2012 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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    To wash veggies I read that you should add a little apple cider or white vinegar to the water to clean them thoroughly.

    September 10, 2012 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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