Doctor's Note

More on pesticides in our foods and their effects:

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: How Chemically Contaminated Are We? and Apple Peels Turn On Anticancer Genes.

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  • henrysalt

    Are some conventional fruits safer to eat than others, ie those with a thick skin that is not eaten, like watermelon, grapefruit, onions, etc.?

  • Organic = less surprises

    It might cost some extra, but personally I don’t like to value my health in money, since I consider my health priceless (which you get reminded of everytime you get sick…)

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Good point Cyclo! At least here in the States, a healthy diet is probably one of the cheapest forms of health insurance.

  • Eric Needs
  • Aren’t systemic pesticides inside the fruit/vegetable? In that case, peeling wouldn’t even make a difference. Does this account for the ~20% remaining pesticide in the peeled group?

    • DrDons

      Correct the rest of the pesticides would be located inside the fruit/vegetable. Always best to go organic as Dr. Greger mentions. However we get much more exposure to toxic materials in fish including wild caught see: or other meats than in conventional vegetables which you should always rinse.

      • beccadoggie10

        Sea otters are now dying of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which may be caused by eating food contaminated with herbicides: 2,4-D; dicamba; or Roundup and used with genetically engineered seeds so more herbicides are sold, Of course, that’s not what these companies tell the farmers, but there is a lot of DIS information spewed by the peddlers of this new technology.

  • beachgirl78

    Dr. Gregor: some videos have a very low volume that is hard to hear even after I maximize the volume on my end. Thank you.

  • Dr. Greger, thank you so much for finally helping me solve the mystery of my son’s hypospadias. I very much blamed myself after reading the studies about the vegetarian connection. You have helped our family more than you know.

  • Marian

    I don’t understand why there would be more hypospadias in vegetarians than meat-eaters. Don’t animal products contain more pesticides than plant foods?

    • beccadoggie10

      The endocrine disrupting fungicide, Vinclozolin, was known to cause hypospadias. When researchers split the mother into two groups, the vegetarian women eating conventional diets (which had used the fungicide) had higher rates of hypospadias than the meat eaters eating organic diets. Organic agriculture does not use pesticides, or fungicides such as Vinclozin.

      This is more about Vinclozin and conventional agriculture than whether or not the mothers ate meat or were vegetarians. Or, as Dr.Greger says with my emphasis:


      In another study with rats, researchers uncovered that intergenerational behavioral changed occurred to offspring whose ancestors have been exposed to Vinclozolin fungicide. It affects how the offspring can handle stress. I wonder if the reason there are so many people that have over-eating disorders or go on shooting rampages due to stress, is because of their or their parents exposure to eating conventional foods treated with Vinclozolin, or this fungicide in their drinking water? Or, even if there is a relationship?

      Source: Nature, Nurture, Epigenetics And Vinclozolin,

  • Luvn2ride

    Does washing fruits and vegetables in hydrogen peroxide help at all?

    • beccadoggie10

      It may help killing bacteria but I doubt it will reduce the toxicity of the pesticides. In fact, it may increase the toxicity.

  • M

    How about rinsing with vinegar? would this remove the pesticides?

    • beccadoggie10

      Vinegar may control bacteria on organic agriculture, but I doubt that it will remove pesticides. Additionally, many pesticides are synergistic and move all the way into the flesh to the seed. Acetic acid has been amongst the so-called “inert ingredients” used in some pesticides. More information such as which ones are proprietary secrets.

  • Lmlliny

    Hi, First I would like to thank Dr. Greger for his daily videos! It doesn’t get any better! It’s like The O’Reilly Factor….The No Spin Zone! My question has to do with the recent study that is indicating that eating organic fruits and veggie has no advantages as far as nutrional value?? Also the pesticides, herbacides and fungicides are all so minimal, not to worry?? REALLY? All of the research I have read in the past shows they ARE nutritionally better and as far as the “nasty stuff” it’s SAFE? LETS SAY YOU?
    Thank you!!!

    • beccadoggie10

      Pesticides were first registered in the USA as Economic Poisons. Over the years, they had a name change under the law. But with recombiant DNA of seeds which were created to solely sell more herbicides, fungicides and other toxic agriculture, the amount of chemical used for “treatment” is huge. It is not miniscule, by any means. Plus, Monsanto, the most evil of the biotechnology companies, is putting organic farmers out of business, and has repeatedly won in the conservative U.S. Supreme Court against seed companies for patent infringement. The seed companies did not want GMO seeds, but the patent law is interpreted in favor of the Biotechnology-pesticide companies, who’s goal is to control the world through the food supply!

      BTW, registration of pest controls is the law, in order for a company to move the chemicals across state lines. It does not mean that the chemical is safe by any means.

  • Emily

    Are there any studies about washing conventionally grown produce in a vinegar-water bath?

    • Jacquie RN

      I was not able to find a scientific study specifically for pesticides. However, the following looked at removing bacteria including a test with vinegar: Journal of Food Protection 2006 Feb;69(2):330-4: Efficacy of home washing methods in controlling surface microbial contamination on fresh produce. Lettuce, broccoli, apples, and tomatoes were used. The study examined different cleaning methods including (i) soak for 2 min in tap water, Veggie Wash solution, 5% vinegar solution, or 13% lemon solution and (ii) rinse under running tap water, rinse and rub under running tap water, brush under running tap water, or wipe with wet/dry paper towel. Reductions of surface contamination of lettuce after soaking in lemon or vinegar solutions were not significantly different from lettuce soaking in cold tap water. Conclusion: “Therefore, educators and extension workers might consider it appropriate to instruct consumers to rub or brush fresh produce under cold running tap water before consumption.”

  • Dohduh

    I buy organic and use the EWG list.  I was washing my fruit (organic and non) with an equal part lemon juice to apple cider vinegar.  Sad to see that isn’t as effective as I thought it was.  It bothers me that the FDA requirements for the label ‘organic’ is for things grown without use of pesticides…now.  Food can be grown in contaminated soil (like the brown rice soaking up arsenic) and still be called organic.  Thoughts about how to shop organically?

    • beccadoggie10

      Which Organic Label Should You Trust. An article written by naturopath, Joseph Mercola.

      Dr. Mercola was one of the few physicians who contributed over a million dollars to help give California voters mandatory labeling and the Right to Know About GMO’s in their food. And of course, since what passes in California helps the rest of the USA, if this had passed it would have put the power back into the hands of the consumers. Unfortunately, conventional agriculture and even some organic companies owned by big corporations had raised over $35 million to defeat the measure. We lost by a very narrow margin.

      More citizen ballot initiatives will take place in Washington State and other states, and will occur again in California in 2014. Perhaps, you can help us fight back. I contributed even though I could not vote in California, as did Dr. Mercola, who lives near Chicago.

  • Jamieerfle

    Everyone should see this!  thanks for sharing!

  • Mantion

    Us has much higher consumption of SOY then Japan, this guy got so many details wrong it is sad.  

    • Steve

      per capita, moron. Use your ears to listen! You are so exceptionally dumb, it is sad. The least you can do is say “Thank you Dr Greger”

  • Lisa

    Can pesticides be washed away using dishwashing soap and a scrub brush?

  • I heard someone tell me they still use pesticides on big corporate
    farms. Organic ones that are dangerous and they don’t have tests to test
    for them… So that is why organic is not much greater than foods with
    pesticides sprayed on them? As they’re getting sprayed with Organic
    Pesticides? Is this true? Is Organic any better than none organic? And
    Does organic raise the nutritional value more than say than non organic
    or wild vegetables and fruit??

  • Sophie Prunier-Duparge

    I have a question about vegetarianism. I can understand that vegetarian woman eating non orgnic have much more risks to get bith defects, with comparision with non organic vegetarians.
    But I am convinced that if you compare an average meat eater woman’s level of pesticides, and the one in vegetarian woman, the vegetarian (vegan) woman will have a lower level. In fact, animals are mostly fed with GMO plants full of pesticides.
    So, birth defects should be stronger in non organic and non vegan population.

  • Slider

    I’ve seen photos of two-headed frogs exposed to herbicides (Roundup). How can eating contaminated plants be OK? If we can’t get organic why not grow clean food? Maybe Monsanto would connect the dots. You bless their poisonous products every time you say it’s better to eat poison than not.! Do we have to wait for a study and video before you see the problem?

  • orbitalsatellite

    i recently heard about a technique which consisted of soaking fruit and/ or vegies in a bath of diluted vinegar. does this help reduce pesticide levels?

  • jackie maguire

    For those of us with little access to organic produce, is there a treatment/wash to lessen pesticides?

    • Thea

      jackie: There are washes out there, but I don’t know how effective they are. The Environmental Working Group paper that I mention below looks at pesticide levels after washing/treating the food as people normally do. That said, maybe the following will be of help to you.

      Dr. Greger has a great blog post where he puts pesticide consumption into perspective. :

      “A new study calculated that if half the U.S. population ate just one more serving of conventional fruits and vegetables, 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented. At the same time the added pesticide consumption could cause up to 10 extra cancer cases. So by eating conventional produce we may get a tiny bump in cancer risk, but that’s more than compensated by the dramatic drop in risk that accompanies whole food plant consumption. Even if all we had to eat was the most contaminated produce the benefits would far outweigh any risks.”


      I translate this bit of info into: Eat organic when you can, but don’t stress about it when you can’t.

      Happily, there is a way to take this advice a step further to minimize your risks without completely depleting the pocketbook. Every year, the Environmental Working Group actually measures pesticide levels in fruits and veggies–after those fruits and veggies have been prepared in the way people would normally eat them. (For example, peeling a banana or washing first.) If you scroll down on the following page, you will see a list for the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.

      I bring your attention to these lists because I think they are very helpful for people who can’t afford or don’t have access to eat organic for everything. You could use these lists to help you decide what is worth eating and what is not.

      I hope this helps!

  • keehotee

    I don’t think using apples as the fruit to determine if you can wash off pesticide residue is necessarily reflective of other produce. Apples are always at the top of the list of dirtiest conventional fruit, and they receive a coating of wax after harvest that encapsulates the pesticides. Would like to see data for other fruits and veg, as well as the results of using a vegetable wash or other cleaning agent.

    Keep up the great work Dr. Greger – love the vidoes!

    • Toxins

      Jeff Novick covers the dirty dozen here. To cite

      “if strawberries were tested and found to have the most residue, lets say “X”, and potatoes were found to be in the middle of the list with only half the amount of residue found, lets say “1/2 X”. Then if you were to eat the exact same amount of strawberries and potatoes each year, then the list would be correct and the strawberries would give you twice the residue. Therefore, it would seem reasonable that maybe you should consider avoiding them or trying to locate pesticide free ones.

      But, what if you eat only about 1 pound of strawberries a year but you eat 30 lbs of potatoes? The list no longer applies as you would be getting in 15x the amount of residue from the potatoes, even though they only had half the amount or residue on each sample.”

  • ben

    How about rinse fruit and vegetables in vinegar in order to remove pesticide?

  • JP

    Hi, thanks for the article very informative. Just 1 thing, you mention that Japan also has a high level of soy consumption. I read online that there is a difference from fermented soy products and non-fermented such as soy milk. Infact what I read was that it is harmful to eat non-fermented soy. I was wondering what your take on the subject was. Thanks

  • Marco

    I wonder what you think about the last study on organic food compared to conventional one. Some scientist says that the quantity of antioxidants, which is supposedly higher in organic, does not really matter… ???

    • Thea


      While I can’t comment on the issue of antioxidants, I though you might be interested in the following quote from Dr. Greger in one of his blog posts:

      Dr. Greger has a great blog post where he puts pesticide consumption into perspective. :

      “A new study calculated that if half the U.S. population ate just one more serving of conventional fruits and vegetables, 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented. At the same time the added pesticide consumption could cause up to 10 extra cancer cases. So by eating conventional produce we may get a tiny bump in cancer risk, but that’s more than compensated by the dramatic drop in risk that accompanies whole food plant consumption. Even if all we had to eat was the most contaminated produce the benefits would far outweigh any risks.”


      Normally when I use this quote, I’m telling people not to worry quite so much about whether something is organic or not. In this case, I want to point out that buying organic, while maybe not the most important consideration, can lower your risk of cancer. (At least according to that one study.) So, I think it does really matter from that perspective…

      Helpful? Or not really what you wanted to discuss?

  • Patipnuts

    I am late seeing this post. Way back In 1960, my father, a scientist working with farmers, noted that where they treated the canal sides for weeds, the cotton in the field across the road also died. He set my sister on her science fair project that was so significant they took it to the state fair. She was interviewed by officials from some of the big chemical companies.

    She used both cotton and grapes, some in separate pots of soil or water with the leaves touching and some in the same soil or water with barriers so no part of the plant above ground was touching. One plant in each pair then had leaves painted with the pesticide. If the roots were on the same container, both plants died.

    The outcome proved the pesticide was absorbed into the plant which then put it out thought the roots into the soil/water where the next plant picked it up. I laugh when people say to peel a non-organic carrot! It is a root and full of the pesticides used. Don’t fool yourselves.

  • Annetha

    >90% of produce in Congressional cafeteria contains neonicotinoid pesticides, which cannot be washed or peeled off–albeit at levels deemed safe for humans by EPA. One might try to select uncontaminated foods just in case, but also lobby against these use of these pesticides, which kill insectivores such as swallows and bugs, pollinators such as bees, and just plain beautiful butterflies.

    “A new report from American Bird Conservancy finds that more than 90 percent of food samples taken from Congressional cafeterias contain neonicotinoid insecticides, a widely used class of chemicals that is highly toxic to birds [bees, butterflies] and other wildlife…Neonics are both persistent and systemic, meaning they penetrate the entire plant so you can’t wash or peel them off…We were…surprised to find no trace of the chemicals in the [sweet] corn
    samples, since an estimated 95 to 99 percent of the U.S. corn crop [mostly field corn] is
    treated with neonicotinoids…Cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, and honeydew melons stood out as the samples with highest levels of neonicotinoid residues…the levels of all the pesticides detected in the food samples
    were below the harmful thresholds for humans as identified by the
    Environmental Protection Agency…” [ABC posted on July 30, 2015.]