I would imagine that most people really aren’t to fond of the idea of having pesticides on the food they eat or in the water they drink. The most recent government pesticide tests establish the widespread presence of pesticide residues on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and even in the tap water many of us drink from. Even more disconcertingly, government scientists also tested three popular types of baby food and found pears and green bean samples that were contaminated with fungicides and bug killers.
In government tests analyzed by the Environmental Working Group, 68 percent of food samples had detectable pesticide residues after they had been washed or peeled. What they found were striking differences between the number of pesticides and amount of pesticides in food detected on Dirty Dozen Plus™ and Clean Fifteen™ foods.
For the past eight years, the EWG has scrutinized pesticide testing data generated by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal FDA and has created its signature Dirty Dozen™ list of foods most commonly contaminated with pesticides. Similarly, they also publish the Clean Fifteen™ list of the foods least likely to be pesticide-tainted. This year they expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a Plus category to highlight two additional crops, green beans and leafy greens, such as kale and collard greens, that do not meet the traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they still have not been banned and still show up on some food crops.
Pesticides in Food
Dirty Dozen™ list of foods most commonly contaminated with pesticides
- Sweet bell peppers
- Imported nectarines
- Domestic blueberries
- Green Beans
Highlights of this year’s Dirty Dozen™
- The most contaminated fruits, in alphabetical order, are apples, domestic blueberries, grapes, imported nectarines, peaches and strawberries.
- The most contaminated vegetables are bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes and spinach.
- Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, followed by apples (98 percent) and imported plums (96 percent).
- The average imported nectarine had much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop.
- Grapes had 15 pesticides detected on a single sample. Blueberries and strawberries both had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample
- As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with 64 different pesticides.
- Some 96 percent of celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by potatoes (91 percent).
- A single bell pepper sample was contaminated with 15 different pesticides, followed by a single sample of celery with 13.
- Bell peppers had 88 different pesticide residues, followed by cucumbers (81) and lettuce (78).
Pesticides in Baby Food
In 2012 the USDA in its examination of pesticides in food, took its first look at pesticide residues that are on baby food samples. It tested about 190 samples each of green beans, pears and sweet potatoes prepared and specifically marketed as baby food. All the samples tested were dated from 2010.
Green beans prepared as baby food tested positive for five pesticides, among them, the organophosphate methamidiphos, which was found on 9.4 percent of samples and the organophosphate acephate, on 7.8 percent of samples. Based on our calculations, a 22-pound child eating one four-ounce serving of green beans sold as baby food with the maximum methamidiphos level found would consume 50 percent of EPA’s acute risk value, a measure of allowable risk. The risks would be higher if the beans were contaminated with a second organophosphate, acephate, which causes the same damages to the brain and nervous system. Lighter babies, those fed more than four ounces of green beans or those fed green beans with organophosphate residues daily would be at still greater risk.
In 1995, EWG analyzed baby food samples and found the two organophosphates in surprisingly similar concentrations.
Pears that were prepared as baby food showed significant levels of pesticide residue and widespread contamination. Fully 92 percent of the pear samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. Some 26 percent of the samples were tainted with 5 or more pesticides. Disturbingly, the pesticide iprodione, which EPA has categorized as a probable human carcinogen, was detected on three baby food pear samples. Iprodione is not registered with EPA for use on pears. Its presence on this popular baby food constitutes a violation of FDA regulations and the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
The one bright spot for our babies was sweet potatoes that is sold as baby food, and had virtually no detectable pesticide residues.
The extent of pesticide contamination documented by USDA’s baby food tests highlights the need for the department to accelerate testing of baby foods and for EPA to reduce further the organophosphate pesticides exposures allowed for Americans, especially infants. And the right wing movement wants to eliminate all those pesky regulations, so we can fully enjoy our baby foods, our foods, and our drinking water supplies being laced with even more pesticide residue as well as other toxins I would bet.
Pesticides in Drinking water
In 2010 USDA analyzed samples from 12 community drinking water systems that use surface water such as reservoirs, lakes and rivers as their water sources, and of those tests, 284 samples taken after treatment detected 65 pesticides or their metabolites. The toxic herbicide atrazine or its metabolites were found in every single sample taken. The herbicides 2,4-D and metolachlor were detected in more than 70 percent of the samples. Six other pesticides were found in at least half the treated drinking water samples. Now if that doesn’t create a serious issue for you, then I don’t know what does or will.
On a brighter note, on the ‘good’ list for 2012 they include what you would normally expect – namely, foods that are irrelevant in organic food anyway, like pineapples, where nothing can get through the shell. You bite right into an apple, you don’t bite into a pineapple or an ear of corn off the stalk. 98 percent of conventional apples had pesticides, they highlight, which sounds telling – except no organic apples were analyzed so highlighting ‘conventional’ is a little dishonest.
Some of the results included Celery, which had 57 different pesticides while the bell peppers had 15 on just one pepper they tested.
Here is the list of 15 foods you can buy without fear and save yourself money by not engaging in the intellectual placebo of buying organic, since it makes no difference in this case.
Safest Food Cleanest 15 Fruits and Vegetables 2012
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Sweet potato
- Honeydew melon
The produce least likely to test positive for pesticides were asparagus, avocado, cabbage, grapefruit, watermelon, eggplants, pineapples, mushrooms, onions, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.
More than 90 percent of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant and sweet potato samples had one or fewer pesticides detected. Of the Clean Fifteen™ vegetables, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals, and no single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ had more than 5 types of pesticides detected.
While pesticides in food as exemplified by this years EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ Plus findings, it makes it apparently clear that we do not need less regulations for the EPA and USDA, but need more. We have made some progress, but by the results we have found that there is more we can do to safeguard our food and water supplies, which is our lifeblood and what we need to survive as with every other living creature on this planet. To poison them is just insane, to say the least, if not downright evil. Peace my friends!