Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" Scaremongering Exposed

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Environmental Working Group's new slogan?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lobbyists issue the "Dirty Dozen" list each year warning consumers which fruits and vegetables they should avoid because they are allegedly contaminated with dangerous amounts of pesticide residues. EWG promises: 

The Shopper's Guide to Pesticide in Produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.

A new study published in the Journal of Toxicology by researchers at the University of California, Davis, says that EWG's list amounts to bogus scaremongering. The researchers find that EWG's analysis is scientifically bunk. The highest level of pesticide residue was found on bell peppers. Should consumers worry? Not at all. As the researchers point out:

The highest relative exposure for a pesticide/commodity combination was for the organophosphate insecticide methamidophos on bell peppers. The RfD [chronic reference doses] for methamidophos was still 49.5 times higher than the exposure estimate, indicating a large measure of consumer protection…. an exposure of 49.5 times lower than the RfD still represents an exposure 49,500 times lower than exposures to methamidophos in laboratory animals that still have not resulted in any adverse health effects.

Note that the chronic reference dose (RfD) represents an estimate of the amount of a chemical a person could be exposed to on a daily basis throughout the person's lifetime that is likely to be without an appreciable risk of harm. In other words, in the worst case scenario in which a person eats "contaminated" bell peppers every day for the rest of his or her life, he or she would not be exposed to an amount of pesticide residue that would plausibly harm his or her health. 

The bottom line of the study is:

It is concluded that (1) exposures to the most commonly detected pesticides on the twelve commodities pose negligible risks to consumers, (2) substitution of organic forms of the twelve commodities for conventional forms does not result in any appreciable reduction of consumer risks, and (3) the methodology used by the environmental advocacy group to rank commodities with respect to pesticide risks lacks scientific credibility.

The scientifically honest thing to do would be for EWG to stop misleading consumers and take down its phony list. 

Hat tip Raymond Eckhart.