Pears among the most pesticide-contaminated fruit in EWG’s Dirty Dozen™


Almost two-thirds of non-organic pears tested most recently by the Department of Agriculture show traces of five or more pesticides that could harm people, a dramatic jump from testing just seven years ago, which showed less than half of tested pears had these residues.

The findings are based on EWG’s analysis of USDA tests from 2021 of 667 non-organic, or conventional, pear samples. The results earn pears the fifth slot on our Dirty Dozen™ list of the most-contaminated produce because:

  • 63 percent of pear samples tested had residues of five or more pesticides, compared to 48 percent in 2016 and just 3 percent in 2010.
  • 57 pesticides were found on pear samples, up from 49 in 2016 and nine in 2010.
  • The average amount of pesticide residues on pears was similar in the years between 2016 and 2021, but it had more than doubled since 2010, from 0.6 parts per million, or ppm, to 1.3 ppm, in 2021.

All pear samples were thoroughly washed before testing. Most pears tested were grown in the U.S., not imported.

The pesticides detected on pears include fungicides, applied to control fungus and mold, and insecticides. About 75 percent of the 2021 samples had four or more pesticide residues. This is troubling because there is very little research on the health effects of ingesting multiple pesticides.

The two pesticides detected in the highest concentrations and most frequently were the fungicides pyrimethanil and fludioxonil, which can be applied late in the growing season, or even after pears are harvested, to keep them from spoiling in storage. Both of these fungicides may be endocrine disruptors and harm the male reproductive systems. Because of mounting evidence of harm in laboratory studies, other scientists have called for a reevaluation of the potential human health harms caused by fludioxonil.

The average amount of pesticides found on pears was similar to the amount on peaches and apples but greater than that on nectarines and cherries. These fruits are all also on the Dirty Dozen list.

Among the pesticides detected on conventionally grown pears in 2021 were:

  • Carbendazim, found on about one in three samples, is toxic to the male reproductive system and a possible carcinogen.
  • Diphenylamine, found on more than one in 10 samples, is banned in Europe because of concerns it could form cancer-causing nitrosamines during storage or when pears are cooked.
  • The neonicotinoid insecticides acetamiprid and imidacloprid, found on about one in four and one in 10 samples, respectively.

But not all of the pesticide trends for pears are negative. Over the past two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has restricted the use of highly toxic organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, which are no longer detected on fresh pairs but were found on fresh pear samples in 2009.

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