In the 2018 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the Environmental Working Group analyzed more than 38,800 samples taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ranked 47 fruits and vegetables based on pesticide contamination after the foods were washed or peeled.
The neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, which can harm children's brains and nervous systems, is applied to apples, bell peppers, peaches, nectarines and other produce.
Additionally, no pesticide residues were found on more than 80 percent of pineapples, cabbages, onions, papayas and asparagus.
The roster - now in its 14th year and created to help consumers "make better choices and.reduce exposure" to chemicals - is based on analyzing recent pesticide-related tests by the Department of Agriculture. The tests found 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on the samples.
This year, the Dirty Dozen list is actually a "baker's dozen" and includes a 13th suspect: hot peppers. Strawberries were also the No. 1 "dirty" offender in 2017.
Avocados lead the list this year, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower and broccoli.
The group says conventionally grown strawberries are typically dosed with dozens of pesticides before and after being planted.
"There is a reason pediatricians encourage parents to consult EWG's guide and take other steps to reduce their child's exposure pesticides", said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NY. Despite the pesticide use, strawberries continue to be widely popular, with per-capita consumption reported at 4.85 pounds per year. While vegetables and fruits are essential components of a healthy diet, research suggests that pesticides in produce may pose subtle health risks. EWG researchers this year found that more than 98% of samples of strawberries, along with spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apples, had residue of at least one pesticide.
Almost 70 percent of the produce sampled had been contaminated by pesticides.
Spinach came in second place, with 97 percent of samples containing residues. The measures include the percent of samples with detectable pesticides, the total number found on the crop, and the maximum number of pesticides on a single sample.
Rinsing produce under tap water is an effective way to eliminate pesticide residues from produce, according to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, a government-run scientific group.
"All adults and children should eat more fruits and vegetables, whether they are organic or conventionally grown", the EWG noted on its site.
"Any report telling people not to eat fresh produce is beyond silly and potentially very harmful advice", said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair.