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Concern About Pesticides

Frank LoVecchio, MD,  is a medical toxicologist at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.

Question: Pesticides have become a growing concern for me. Is it worth spending more when it comes to buying organic?

Answer: As summer approaches, we all look forward to buying sweet fruits and crispy veggies, but today we are faced with the dilemma of potentially unhealthy pesticides on our healthy produce.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that even after washing, some fruits and vegetables consistently carry much higher levels of pesticide residue. Other supermarket selections are very safe after they have been washed thoroughly. Knowing what to look for in advance can save you money when shopping for food.

Extensive analysis by researchers at the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., led to a list of the “dirty dozen,” which includes:

  • apples
  • cherries
  • imported grapes
  • nectarines
  • peaches
  • pears
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • potatoes
  • spinach

If possible, try to buy organic when shopping from this list because their conventionally grown counterparts tend to be laden with pesticides. Be prepared, they may cost about 50 to 100 percent more, but are generally worth the added expense.

It’s wise to carefully clean all produce, whether it’s conventional or organic, since it can be contaminated with bacteria in the process of being picked and shipped. Thoroughly washing all produce in water can remove up to 90 percent of organic and chemical residues. Peeling fruit and using a vegetable scrubber can also help remove residue.

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