There is no question that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides substantial health benefits. On the other hand, many fruits and vegetables are sold with pesticide residue that pose health risks. Pesticides are toxic by design; that is, expressly intended to kill living organisms — insects, plants, and fungi — that are considered "pests." Different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including:
- brain and nervous system toxicity
- hormone disruption
- skin, eye and lung irritation.
Tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group showed detectable residues on 63 percent of produce samples.The best way to avoid pesticides is to buy organic fruits and vegetables. "Organic" is a designation used by the USDA National Organic Program to certify food that is produced without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation or sewage sludge.
The Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticide in Produce can help you identify which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.
The EWG offers a helpful list of "Frequently Asked Questions" addressing about produce and pesticides.