Kale, strawberries, spinach top ‘Dirty Dozen' list for pesticide contamination

You might want to rethink that kale smoothie, because the popular vegetable that serves as a staple in "clean eating" meal plans just made it onto the Environmental Wellness Group's annual ranking of the most pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables, otherwise known as the "Dirty Dozen."

According to the EWG's analysis of test data from the Department of Agriculture, 70 percent of the produce sold in the U.S. comes with pesticide residues, and surprisingly, kale is among the most contaminated fruits and vegetables that Americans consume.

The EWG's analysis suggests that an astonishing 92 percent of kale samples had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues.

One of these pesticides includes Dacthal, or DCPA, which has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a possible human carcinogen since 1995, and has been banned for use in Europe since 2009.

According to the EWG, the USDA has not tested kale for almost a decade, but pesticide levels in the popular vegetable have increased significantly. Kale samples tested positive for two or more pesticides, with multiple samples showing 18 different pesticide residues.

In 2009, kale ranked eighth on the Dirty Dozen, and since then, the USDA hasn't tested kale for pesticides. Between 2007 and 2012, kale harvests in the U.S. have grown by more than 56 percent, according to a report by EWG Toxicologist Dr. Alexis Temkin.

"Conventional kale farming relies heavily on the use of several synthetic pesticides, including Dacthal," Temkin says in the report.

The EWG's website explains that during the testing of these popular fruits and vegetables, 225 different pesticides were found. "All produce was washed and peeled, just as people would prepare food for themselves, which shows that simple washing does not remove all pesticides," the group said.

The 2019 Dirty Dozen: