Peaches pack a punch when it comes to pesticide contamination


More than half a million tons of peaches are grown in 20 states each year, but here’s another statistic to digest: 99 percent of peaches sampled are contaminated with traces of pesticides.

Recognized as Georgia’s official state fruit, peaches are noteworthy for a different reason in this year’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ – they’re in the fourth slot on EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list of fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticide residues.

Our analysis of Department of Agriculture tests from 2021 of 500 samples of fresh conventional peaches found:

  • One potential hormone-disrupting pesticide was detected on 90 percent of samples.
  • Overall, 56 different pesticides were found on the fresh peach samples.
  • A peach sample could have traces of up to 19 different pesticides.
  • Over 65 percent of peach samples tested had residues of four or more pesticides.

Among the samples tested, more than 70 percent were grown in the U.S., highlighting the inadequacy of Environmental Protection Agency bans and oversight of the pesticides sprayed on the fruit and vegetables sold across the country.

The pesticides detected on peaches include fungicides, applied to control mold, as well as insecticides that can harm the nervous system of insects, wildlife and people.

Fungicides were the most commonly found pesticides on the samples. They’re also what the USDA detected in the highest amounts. They can be applied late in the growing season, or after harvesting, to keep fruit from spoiling – and they’re also potentially harmful to humans.

The fungicide fludioxonil was found on nearly 90 percent of peach samples, with three samples exceeding the maximum amount allowed of fludioxonil residue the EPA says may be found on the fruit. Recent laboratory research suggests this chemical may harm fetal development, cause changes in the cells of the immune system and disrupt hormones.

Propiconazole, a fungicide that’s been proven to be toxic to the liver and can harm the male reproductive system, was found on over 40 percent of the USDA samples. The department’s earlier tests of peaches, in 2014, found the fungicides on 65 percent of samples for fludioxonil and 38 percent of samples for propiconazole. Average concentrations on samples with detectable residues were also higher for both fungicides in 2021 samples.

In addition to fungicides, the USDA’s 500 samples from 2021 found the neonic insecticides acetamiprid and imidacloprid on about 19 percent and 6 percent of samples, respectively. That compares to 11 percent for acetamiprid and about the same percent of samples for imidacloprid in 2014.

Several neonics have been banned in the European Union because they can harm pollinators, and emerging evidence suggests they may also be harmful to children’s health.

Although peaches are still heavily contaminated with pesticides, especially fungicides, the latest USDA tests do show a drop in detections of phosmet, a neurotoxic insecticide, and iprodione, a fungicide that can harm the male reproductive system and is classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen.

Compared to earlier USDA tests, in 2014, phosmet residue was down to just 2 percent of samples, from 15 percent, and iprodione was found on just over 5 percent of samples, down from nearly 30 percent.

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