If you’re buying fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States, 70 percent of it will carry pesticide residues on it even after you’ve washed it, according to a new study from a widely-respected health advocacy group.

The Environmental Working Group’s annual analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture data offers grim evidence of the over-saturation of pesticides and toxic chemicals in conventional agriculture in the United States, with top crops such as spinach and strawberries counting among the most contaminated produce.

The group hopes the report will inform shoppers of the risks inherent in buying and consuming conventionally-grown produce versus organic fruits and vegetables.

Most surprisingly, kale–that trendy dark green superfood that’s risen to the top of health-conscious grocers’ lists in the past decade–is among the top three contaminated fruits and vegetables, with 92 percent of non-organic kale containing residues from at least two or more pesticides. Some kale sampled carried the residue of no less than 18 different types of pesticides.

In a statement, EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin said:

“We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal … Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone’s diet, and when it comes to some conventionally grown produce items, such as kale, choosing organic may be a better option.”

Both spinach and kale carried between 10 to 80 percent more pesticide residue by sheer weight than any other crop, respectively ranking second and third on the “dirty dozen” list of popular vegetables carrying the most pesticides.

Strawberries lead the pack, containing an average of nearly 8 different pesticides per sample–a shocking figure when considering that the average U.S. resident consumes around eight pounds of fresh strawberries per year.

Strawberry growers in regions across the west coast dump vast amounts of pesticides and poisonous gases on fields to make them safe for strawberry cultivation before further exposing crops to fumigation. The use of toxic pesticides in agricultural communities has seen California cities such as Oxnard, Santa Maria and Watsonville face mounting numbers of respiratory disorders, birth defects and illnesses, particularly by farm workers and neighborhoods near the fields.

And while the European Union has banned many of the pesticides used by U.S. strawberry growers, lobbyists from corporations like Dow Chemical Company have ensured that government turns a blind eye to the overuse of carcinogenic pesticides.

The EWG also noted that over “90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.”

All nutritional experts and scientists agree that people benefit from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh produce–be it organic or conventional, depending on people’s budgetary constraints.

Yet the continued excessive usage of pesticides–largely by big food manufacturers and growers seeking to minimize costs–has made it difficult for health experts and regulatory bodies to accurately gauge the extent of pesticide exposure in our day-to-day lives, let alone to understand how the combinations of chemicals we’re exposed to can affect our bodies.

EWG research analyst Carla Burns noted:

“The main route of pesticide exposure for most Americans who do not live or work on or near farms is through their diet … Studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables free of pesticides benefits health, and this is especially important for pregnant women and children.”

Yet the researcher noted that regardless of the grim findings from the EWG study, “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2019 is:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes