Kale and collards are popular lately but, along with an apple a day, they can give you a daily mouthful of pesticides, a study by the Environmental Working Group finds. Strawberries, grapes and celery are nearly as bad. Baby food isn't so great, either.
Other fresh fruits and vegetables on the organization's Dirty Dozen list this year include peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.
But wait, it gets worse. For the second year, EWG has added a "Plus" category to its Dirty Dozen, highlighting crops that were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.
This year's Plus crops are domestically-grown summer squash and leafy greens, specifically kale and collards.
In USDA tests, kale and collars were found to be contaminated with organophosphate pesticides, potent neurotoxins that can affect children's IQ and brain development, even at low doses.
Baby food's not exactly kid stuff, either. EWG found that green beans canned for baby food tested positive for five pesticides. Pear samples tested positive for 11.
Pesticides are, after all, toxic by design and are created expressly to kill living organisms -- insects, plants and fungi that are considered "pests." Many pesticides pose health dangers to people and have been linked to brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, and eye and lung irritation.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents more than 60,000 pediatricians, for the first time adopted an official position warning doctors and parents that pesticide exposures from food are potentially dangerous to children's health.
Find all this upsetting?
It is, but the good news is that EWG also has a "Clean Fifteen" list, consisting of those fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide load, including corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.
Want to go beyond that list? Choosing organic food is the most reliable way to avoid toxins, EWG says.
"When given a choice, more consumers are choosing organic fruits and vegetables or using EWG's Shopper's Guide to find an easy affordable way to avoid toxic chemicals," said Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior analyst. "They want to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables without eating too many pesticides. And they want to support local farms and agriculture that is better for the environment."
EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables and gives consumers a head-start on finding healthier foods for themselves and their families.