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Reduce the risk of pesticides by washing produce (but don’t stop eating your veggies)

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As the Environmental Working Group releases its “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticide residue, a West Virginia University expert says highest concentration of many pesticides is on the surface of the fruit or vegetable and washing the produce can greatly reduce the risk of exposure to chemicals. Plant pathologist James Kotcon said the risk of eliminating fruits and vegetables from your daily diet is greater than the harm that might be caused from ingesting pesticides. 

“Washing fruits and vegetables usually means running them under tap water for a length of time. Lightly rubbing the surface of the apple or the tomato will also help to reduce some of those pesticide residues. They’re not going to be completely removeable and there are some pesticides that actually do penetrate the inside of the fruit and that’s why the preharvest interval is one of the more important safety measures that EPA puts into a pesticide label to make sure those have disappeared and they’re at safe concentrations even when we can’t wash them off the surface.” —James Kotcon, WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design 

James Kotcon audio file

“Certainly, by washing the produce you can reduce the pesticide levels, but a vast majority of that produce is already safe to eat. The risk from consuming additional pesticides is much lower than the risk of not eating vegetables. Vegetables are good for you, and the reason that we encourage several helpings of fruits and vegetables per day is because of the vitamins and minerals they provide that can’t be achieved anywhere else.” —James Kotcon, WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design 

James Kotcon audio file

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



CONTACT: James Kotcon
Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design

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