Why You Shouldn't Stress About Buying Organic, Says a Toxicologist

Sophie Miura

You're standing in the supermarket aisle staring at two piles of tomatoes. One is organic and costs twice the price of regular tomatoes, and the other is non-organic, which you're concerned could be damaging to your health. Which do you choose?

According to Carl Winter, PhD, a professor of toxicology at the University of California, Davis, the answer isn't black and white. In fact, he argues that foods sprayed with pesticides might not be as bad for you as some lead you to believe. 

In an interview with Business Insider, Winter explains that the Environmental Working Group (EWG)'s popular Dirty Dozen list might be misleading. He argues that the list, which spotlights 12 fruit and vegetables with the highest "pesticide loads," doesn't use a standard test to tell whether something is dangerous for human health. 

"Typical US consumer exposure to the most common pesticides found on the [list] is at a tiny fraction of what would be of health concern," he says. In other words, it's unclear whether the amount of pesticide found on this produce actually poses a threat.

According to other experts, there's no "safe" amount of pesticide. "Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children's exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables," says Philip Landrigan, MD, a pediatrician at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, in an interview with USA Today

The take-home? Don't let the Dirty Dozen list deter you from buying fresh fruit and vegetables. Always thoroughly wash produce first, and make purchasing decisions based on your own research rather than one information source. 

Do you buy organic produce because you're concerned about pesticides? Does this expert's opinion change your decision?

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