EWG pests bugging us again

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Ah, summer. That time of year when the sun is shining, barbecues are fired up, and your favorite fruits and vegetables are finally ripe and available in bountiful supply. But before you head to the grocery store to enjoy these tasty treats, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) wants you to know that many of these delights are not safe to eat. That s because they re covered in dirty pesticides (gasp)!

Which brings us to that time of the year again, when the EWG releases its annual list of the Dirty Dozen. This time around, the group is warning that apples, celery, and bell peppers are the most contaminated produce; thus consumers should make every effort to buy organic versions of these products, say the EWG activists posing as scientists.

But not so fast, says ACSH friend Dr. Joseph Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal. It s a mistake to equate the presence of a chemical with the presence of risk, he said in National Public Radio s coverage of this year s Dirty Dozen list. Where is the evidence that these trace residues are dangerous?

As Dr. Schwarcz and ACSH have long known, there isn t any. Which is why we d like to thank him for reminding folks that there s no reason to panic about pesticides in produce.

EWG has taken to heart the adage that if you repeat something enough times, people will believe it, says ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava. Thus, when they annually reiterate that some fruits and vegetables have dangerous levels of pesticides, they re presenting a fake warning that, unfortunately, some consumers will believe.

Dr. Joe also has a weekly column, The Right Chemistry, dedicated to exposing other pseudo-scientific myths. ACSH has, on occasion, weighed in.