2022's “Dirty Dozen” List Reveals The Most Pesticide-Laden Produce At The Store

Getty / Kseniya Sharapova

Plenty of people would probably love to buy mostly organic produce, which is grown without being exposed to pesticides. But that’s not always possible, both because it’s much more expensive than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and because it’s not always as accessible. That’s why we’re always interested in the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list. It names the 12 types of produce that are most important to buy organic, along with a “Clean Fifteen” list of the fruits and vegetables that are fine to buy conventional.

Pesticides are used to kill the pests, weeds, and plant diseases that destroy crops, and when ingested, they can affect your health. “Many pesticides are also linked to serious human health issues, including hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity, and cancer,” an EWG press release states, adding: “Recent research from Harvard University shows that consuming fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues may offset the protections eating such foods normally provides against cardiovascular disease and mortality.”

But, when it comes to pesticides, not all fruits and vegetables are created equal. Some are more contaminated than others, and that’s where the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list comes in. It’s based off testing conducted by the US Department of Agriculture. Experts scrub and peel produce just like you would at home before eating, then test it for pesticides. Pesticide residue was picked up on 70 percent of the non-organic produce tested, the EWG press release states. Almost all were still within the legal allowed limit – but according to the EWG, it’s still best to avoid pesticides when possible.

The Dirty Dozen list – printed below, alongside the Clean Fifteen – calls out the produce with the highest pesticide levels, that is, therefore, most important to buy organic. When organic options aren’t available, the EWG suggests buying from the Clean Fifteen list, 70 percent of which had no detectible pesticide levels at all, even when conventionally grown. (Hooray for avocados being number one on the list!) “Everyone should eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, no matter how they’re grown,” EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D, said in the press release. “But shoppers have the right to know what potentially toxic substances are found on these foods, so they can make the best choices for their families, given budgetary and other concerns.”

EWG Dirty Dozen List For 2022

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bell and hot peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

EWG Clean Fifteen List For 2022

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew melons
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Mangoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Sweet Potatoes
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