Strawberries are one of the top 20 fruits consumed worldwide, although their popularity has also a dark side. According to the Environmental Working Group (EMG), strawberries contain the highest amount of pesticide residue, more than 20 “toxic” artificial chemicals. EMG annually publishes a report called “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen”, with a breakdown of fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest load of pesticides.
Strawberries and spinach were the worst offenders for the fourth straight year. One sample of strawberries, for example, contained more than 20 different pesticides. Spinach experienced the same situation, it contained nearly twice the pesticide residue by weight than any other fruit or vegetable.
EMG research showed that more than 90% of produce tested were positive for two or more chemicals. In some case more than 98% of fruit and vegetables contained at least one pesticide. In some simple words, all our food is “tainted” with some type of chemical. After strawberries and spinach follow kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. The full list is here.
What are pesticides? A pesticide is any substance that is used to destroy, repel, control or prevent plants and animals considered to be pests, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Under pesticides umbrella go fungicides (prevent mildew and mould), herbicides (destroy weeds) and insecticides (repel or kill some insects). Keeping it simple, those chemicals have a unique mission: to be toxic or poisonous to pests. Does it have an impact on human health? Yes, it does.
Many studies have reported some types of side effects after “consuming” pesticides for a short or long term. Most common effects for short exposure are: diarrhoea, vomiting, seizures, sore throat, coughing or feeling extremely weak. On the other side, a persistent use of chemicals can lead to diseases such as cancer, Parkinson, Alzheimer, sterility, nerve disorders, asthma, anxiety, depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. Some other researches have shown that pesticides can cause some neurological issues such as visual impairment, loss of memory and coordination, mood instability and reduction in motor skills (1), (2).
As it is impossible to be 100% away from pesticides these days, try to minimize your exposure to them. How? Buy organic and locally grown fruit and vegetables. Wash them before eating. Know which fruits and vegetables have higher levels of pesticides. If you can, grow your own produce. And the last one, use non-toxic methods for controlling insects in your home or garden.
(1) Hu, Ruifa, Xusheng Huang, Jikun Huang, Yifan Li, Chao Zhang, Yanhong Yin, Zhaohui Chen, Yanhong Jin, Jinyang Cai, and Fang Cui. “Long-and short-term health effects of pesticide exposure: a cohort study from China.” PloS one 10, no. 6 (2015): e0128766.