The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit consumer advocacy group, recently released their annual “Dirty Dozen” list of pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. 

This year, for the first time, apples ascend to the top of the list as the most chemically-contaminated produce.

Everyone understands that a healthy diet is one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. But some produce contains more pesticide residue than others and limiting that exposure is vitally important.

Using government data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the EWG tested more than 700 apples and found pesticides on 98 percent of those sampled. Even after washing, 92 percent of the apples tested had two or more pesticide residues detected. You can’t wash away pesticides in the fruit. The fruit’s structure has been compromised, so even if you peel an apple or wash it, the pesticides are in the cellular structure because they have been grown in a poison environment.

“We think what’s happening to apples is more pesticides and fungicides are being applied after the harvest so the fruit can have a longer shelf life,” Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst told USA Today.

In their 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the EWG evaluated 53 fruits and vegetables and ranked them based on their pesticide residue. These are the fruits and vegetables you must buy organic because of their high levels of poison.

The Dirty Dozen
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries (domestic)
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

(A complete list of all 53 fruits and vegetables tested is available at www.ewg.org/foodnews/list/ )
If you are routinely buying your family these conventionally-grown produce then you are probably putting a lot of pesticides on their plate.

For years there has been growing concerns about repeated exposures and the cumulative effect of poisonous pesticides – even in small amounts – and their impact on human health, especially the health of young children. Studies have suggested a possible association between pesticide exposure and numerous serious conditions including cancer, neurological problems and endocrine system disruption. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found even modest exposure to certain pesticides during pregnancy can influence an infant’s size and birth weight.

These are all good reasons for switching to organic fruits and vegetables.

Too often I hear people complain that organics are more expensive than conventionally-grown produce. Ok, how expensive is that supersized chemically flavored, genetically modified, popcorn and soda served up with the latest blockbuster? It is affordable, but you need to prioritize; make a grocery list and make sure fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list. Buy that organic apple versus a bag of chips.

We need to make our children’s health a priority. Parents who are concerned about protecting their children from potential health risks associated with harmful and unnecessary pesticide exposure should buy only organic produce and make it part of their daily diet.

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health CenterTM at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children’s health issues, and is a contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com. For more information go to www.dienviro.com

Deirdre Imus, Founder of the site devoted to environmental health, www.ImusEnvironmentalHealth.org, is President and Founder of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder/Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She is a New York Times best-selling author and a frequent contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com, and Fox Business Channel. Check out her website at www.ImusEnvironmentalHealth.org. Follow her on Twitter@TheGreenDirt and 'like' her Facebook page here.