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Pesticides and Produce - A Parents Guide

Posted by Jane Akre
Sunday, October 28, 2007 5:04 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Defective & Dangerous Products

What You Don’t Know About Peaches Can Hurt You 

Andrea Conover keeps a dog-eared list of foods that contain fewer pesticides taped to her kitchen cupboard. She takes it with her when she shops for organic food at a Jacksonville, Florida’s natural grocery store, Native Sun. 

“I want what’s healthier for my family,” she says.  “I think pesticides on conventional produce are not good for us.”   

Conover and a growing number of families are joining the scientific community in a consensus that small doses of pesticides can adversely affect people, especially the small vulnerable bodies of growing children. 

Research shows about 70 percent of Americans buy some organic food at least occasionally helping fuel a healthy, growing organic-food industry. Now with school in session, there are ways you can pack a healthier school lunch without necessarily the added 30% or more expense of going organic. 

The Science

A 2003 University of Washington study found that children ages six to nine, fed a diet of organic food had six to nine times less exposure to pesticides than a comparison group of children eating a conventional diet..

In the study, young children, consuming the conventional diet, had the highest level among all age groups of metabolites which come from the breakdown of pesticides.  In fact, the CDC noted that young children carry a particularly high body burden—nearly twice that of adults—of the insecticide, chlorpyrifos.  Many of the findings suggest that children exceed the officially established “acceptable” level of exposure, which has been determined based on adult weight.

The U.S. continues to use more than a billion pounds of pesticides annually on farms, in homes, in schools, parks, hospitals and public places—many places frequented by children.

Children’s bodies are still growing and that may partially explain why they have less natural protection to pesticides found in their environment.  And according to the EPA, there are “critical periods” in human development which might intensify the effects of a timely exposure to toxins.  And children tend to play on the floor and put their hand to their mouth often, possibly increasing exposure to household pesticides.

Effects to pesticide exposure may include dizziness and nausea to long-term developmental disorders.  One of the University of Washington researchers, Cynthia Curl, says children exposed to higher levels of organophosphate pesticides are at greater risk for certain types of cancer—bone and brain, neuroblastoma and childhood leukemia

The chemical industry points to the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act that regulates the industry and requires stricter levels be established to protect babies and children.  However, even lower levels of pesticides can accumulate and damage health in the long-term. And an association has been found linking a parent’s exposure to pesticides and the development of cancers in their young children at home.  Critics point to an industry that essentially regulates itself, submitting test results it selects to the EPA prior to registration of a new chemical. 

What Parents Can Do

Some parents may opt to peel their produce, but nutritionists warn that much of a plant’s nutrients are in the peel.  

Washing the produce won’t do much to reduce pesticide residues, according to Jovana Ruzicic of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a not-for-profit Washington D.C. based consumer and environmental health organization.   Ruzicic tells IB News, “Soaps have chemicals in them as well,” and warns against using a bleach solution to clean produce. 

The best advice is to wash all produce to eliminate the human contamination from handling, avoid peeling when you can, and choose organic foods that are grown with minimal synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, irradiation or biotechnology. Organically grown foods seem to retain more nutrients and are better for our environment as well, reducing nearby water pollution from pesticide and fertilizer runoff which has been found in some tap water

Helping You Shop To Avoid Pesticides

Just when you begin to feel like you’d like to run and hide, there is an easy way to help you become an informed consumer. 

The Environmental Working Group, has assembled the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, ranking contamination found in 44 popular fruits and vegetables.  The produce was washed before it was measured and came from different areas of the country, says Ruzicic.  The pesticide contamination was measured six different ways by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

Just as Conover does when she brings her shopping guide to the grocery store, a smart shopper can use the guide from the EWG to shop for organic alternatives to the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that are likely to contain the most residues of pesticide.  In order to save the usually higher cost of organics, the guide helps you shop for conventionally grown foods among those on the list with the lowest residue of pesticide. 

The EWG believes people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent by avoiding the “Dirty Dozen” contaminated fruits and vegetables and switching them with the least contaminated or organic versions. 

Peaches Top The List

A sweet Georgia peach in season sounds juicy but its soft exterior helps it absorb the most pesticides. It tops the list for the highest pesticide load among the “Dirty Dozen,” followed by  apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries and imported grapes.

Lowest on the list of contaminated fruits are pineapples, mango, kiwi, bananas and papaya.

Among vegetables with the highest pesticide load are sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach and potatoes.

Vegetables with the least contamination include onions, avocado, sweet corn-frozen, sweet peas-frozen; asparagus, broccoli, eggplant and cabbage. 

Armed with the “Dirty Dozen” produce list, Conover feels more comfortable with her buying habits. And for conventional purchases she’s taking it one step further—shopping for produce grown near her north Florida home.    Local Harvest helps you connect with locally grown fresh sources of produce that do not have to be trucked into your area, reducing gasoline consumption and resulting in fresher food that supports local farming.   

Conover credits her conversion to local food sources after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, ( HarperCollins, 2007), which encourages that farming and food become, as it once was, the center of  the American table, landscape and life. 

See the Dirty Dozen




1 (worst)


100 (highest pesticide load)





Sweet Bell Peppers


















Grapes - Imported












Full Data Set:



1 Comment

Posted by Stephen L. Tvedten
Monday, October 29, 2007 11:23 AM EST

How to kill pests without killing yourself or the earth......

There are about 50 to 60 million insect species on earth - we have named only about 1 million and there are only about 1 thousand pest species - already over 50% of these thousand pests are already resistant to our volatile, dangerous, synthetic pesticide POISONS. We accidentally lose about 25,000 to 100,000 species of insects, plants and animals every year due to "man's footprint". But, after poisoning the entire world and contaminating every living thing for over 60 years with these dangerous and ineffective pesticide POISONS we have not even controlled much less eliminated even one pest species and every year we use/misuse more and more pesticide POISONS to try to "keep up"! Even with all of this expensive and unnecessary pollution - we lose more and more crops and lives to these thousand pests every year.

We are losing the war against these thousand pests mainly because we insist on using only synthetic pesticide POISONS and fertilizers There has been a severe "knowledge drought" - a worldwide decline in agricultural R&D, especially in production research and safe, more effective pest control since the advent of synthetic pesticide POISONS and fertilizers. Today we are like lemmings running to the sea insisting that is the "right way". The greatest challenge facing humanity this century is the necessity for us to double our global food production with less land, less water, less nutrients, less science, frequent droughts, more and more contamination and ever-increasing pest damage.

National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24,2007 was created to highlight the dangers of poisoning and how to prevent it. One study shows that about 70,000 children in the USA were involved in common household pesticide-related (acute) poisonings or exposures in 2004. At least two peer-reviewed studies have described associations between autism rates and pesticides (D'Amelio et al 2005; Roberts EM et al 2007 in EHP). It is estimated that 300,000 farm workers suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year just in the United States - No one is checking chronic contamination.
In order to try to help "stem the tide", I have just finished re-writing my IPM encyclopedia entitled: THE BEST CONTROL II, that contains over 2,800 safe and far more effective alternatives to pesticide POISONS. This latest copyrighted work is about 1,800 pages in length and is now being updated at my new website at LINK .

This new website at LINK has been basically updated; all we have left to update is Chapter 39 and to renumber the pages. All of these copyrighted items are free for you to read and/or download. There is simply no need to POISON yourself or your family or to have any pest problems.

Stephen L. Tvedten
2530 Hayes Street
Marne, Michigan 49435
"An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come." --Victor Hugo

Comments for this article are closed.

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