Like most people, you may worry about pesticides that linger on fruit and vegetables and wonder to know how and to what extent it can affect our health.
Although pesticides are of tremendous value as they protect crops against insects, plants, fungi and other “pests”. For example in the 1950s, when pesticides were used in massive amounts, doctors pointed out that the health benefits of fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. However as pesticides are toxic in nature, and when they linger on in fruit and vegetables even if properly washed, there are indeed health concerns involved.
You may be surprised to know that medical researchers have linked pesticides to health problems such as brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, and skin, eye and lung irritation.
The good news is that there is now a huge industry offering organic or pesticide-free produce, hence consumers like us will have more choice and control. But the problem is that organic products are, generally speaking, more expensive. So if we are on a budget but would like to buy at least some organic produce, it is advisable to take a look at the US-based food choice advocacy group Environmental Working Group “dirty dozen” list of popular foods that have the most pesticide residues.
Although standards vary around the world, I believe the list provides a useful resource for people who want to reduce their contact with pesticides.
This year, the Environmental Working Group suggested the following fruits and vegetables contain the most residues:
- Red pepper;
- Sweet bell peppers;
- Blueberries; and
They also noted their studies showed green beans and leafy greens such as kale and collard greens are commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. Although these are less commonly used now, it is good to know that they are not banned, and still show up.
On the other hand, the 15 fruits and vegetables that contain the least pesticide residues are onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwis, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and mushrooms.
Tan Kok Hui
Nutrition Made Simple, Life Made Rich