Which are the Most Contaminated and High-Pesticide Fruit and Vegetables

by Tiffany Kail on November 22, 2013

Sometimes called the “dirty dozen,” there are twelve fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated by pesticides and/or fungicides. Here is a list of the most contaminated produce in loosely descending order and the pesticides used on them.

1. Bell Peppers – Of vegetables contaminated with neurotoxic pesticides, bell peppers came out the winner (or loser, depending on how you look at it). They have a higher level of such neurological toxins than any other crop that has been tested.

2. Apples – Apples have substantially higher pesticide residues than other fruits and vegetables. They also have one of the greatest numbers of chemicals on their skins – at least thirty-six in one large test.

clean and dirty veggies

3. Strawberries – Fungicides like captan and iprodione are a problem on these vitamin C-rich fruits. These chemicals are probable human carcinogens according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Endosulfan is a pesticide that is related to DDT, and is commonly used on strawberries. Endosulfan, as the name implies, affects the human endocrine system, specifically the production of estrogen.

4. Spinach – The pesticides found on the leaves of spinach – permethrin and chlorothalonil to name two – are probable carcinogens. And they are found in high levels on spinach.

5. Cherries – This children’s favorite is actually more likely to be contaminated with pesticides if the cherries are grown in the United States. This is in contrast to many fruits and vegetables. And a large number of these poisons are used – the list of pesticides used on cherry orchards in California alone is too extensive to include in this article. One pesticide of particular concern is azinphos-methyl, which has caused illness among orchard workers.

6. Peaches – Like strawberries, peaches can harbor residue of the fungicides captan and iprodione. They are also regularly doused with methyl parathion, a neurotoxin.

7. Cantaloupe – High levels of pesticides and fungicides are found on this fruit, particularly if it is imported from Mexico when out of season. Enjoy cantaloupe when it is in season, and grown as locally as possible.

8. Celery – Celery is another source of chlorothalonil residue, the carcinogenic pesticide found on spinach.

9. Green Beans – In addition to chlorothalonil and endosulfan, green beans also harbor the cancer-causing mancozeb and the neurotoxin methamidophos.

10. Grapes – Fungicides are the big culprit on grapes, since they tend to mold so quickly during transport. This is why imported grapes are more contaminated.

11. Apricots – Apricots have residue of the ubiquitous captan and endosulfan. They also have the endocrine-disruptor carbary on their skins.

12. Cucumbers – You peel cucmbers, right? Yes, but the dangerous thing about this vegetable is that dieldrin, a pesticide that is highly carcinogenic, gets absorbed from the soil into the flesh of the cucumber itself. Dieldrin does not break down in the human body, remaining stored in body fat for years, even decades.

The best thing to do is to buy organic versions of these fruits and vegetables. If organic is not an option, consider avoiding them altogether.

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About the author...

 is a personal trainer, certified yoga instructor, and certified health coach, and most importantly, a mom. She's a proponent of the clean eating approach because it's a complete lifestyle solution and she's seen her clients thrive on it more than any other healthy eating plan.

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