Dirty dozen? Apples good for your health despite pesticide warnings, experts say

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: September 5th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Is there a food more associated with good health than apples? We’ve all heard the old saying, an apple a day … well, you know the rest.

Apples are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. And studies have shown that eating apples may help lower cholesterol.

That’s why it was so worrisome when an environmental group announced that apples topped the so-called dirty dozen list of foods contaminated by pesticides.

Each year the nonprofit Environmental Working Group publishes a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. According to their findings, pesticides were detected on 98 percent of apples the U.S. Department of Agriculture tested between 2000 and 2009.

So what’s an apple lover to do? The U.S. Apple Association is urging consumers to take a closer look at the findings.

First, it’s up to the Environmental Protection Agency to keep consumers safe from harmful chemicals. And most of the levels of pesticides found on apples fall within safe ranges.

For example, take thiabendazole [thigh-ah-BEN-da-zoll], a pesticide that was found on eighty-eight percent of apples, according to the Environmental Working Group’s study. The chemical is believed to be carcinogenic if taken in large doses. However, the tests found only about 42 micrograms of it on apples. That’s far below the EPA’s danger threshold of 667 micrograms for a child, and 23,000 micrograms for an adult male.

Should health-conscious consumers avoid foods that may be contaminated? Both the U.S. Apple Association and the Environmental Working Group agree on one fundamental point: Cutting fruits and vegetables out of your diet will cause a lot more harm to your health than exposure to a small amount of pesticides.

So whether you opt for Fujis or Galas or conventionally grown or organic, apples are still on the top of the bushel when it comes to good nutrition.