High-pesticide Produce Causes 49 Percent Lower Sperm Count

Certain fruits and vegetables are known to contain pesticide residue. Farmers spray their crops with pesticide to keep pests from harming their agriculture. When pesticides are applied to crops, it can leave residue on the food which is then sold in grocery stores. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates the amount of pesticide that is used to ensure safety, the leftover pesticide residue on food are toxic and can still affect our health.

A new study from Harvard University has found that men who eat fruits and vegetables that have leftover pesticide residue have lower sperm counts and a lower percentage of healthy sperm. Researchers analyzed samples of sperm among a group of 155 men who were all going to a fertility clinic from 2007 to 2012. All the men reported that they and their partner were having a hard time conceiving.

Healthy Red Tomatoes are Wet and Organic
Healthy Red Tomatoes are Wet and Organic

The study participants were given questionnaires, with 131 questions, to answer regarding their diet. They also answered questions about how much and how frequently they ate 38 specific fruits and vegetables including avocadoes and apples. The results of the questionnaires were then compared to U.S. Department of Agriculture Data on average pesticide residue found in those fruits and vegetables.

The results determined that the problem was not the quantity, but the quality of the produce. Those who ate at least 1.5 servings of produce containing high levels of pesticide per day had a 49 percent lower sperm count and two-thirds the amount of healthy sperm in their semen, compared to men who ate less than half a serving of produce with high levels of pesticide.

Pesticides are made up of toxic chemicals. They have been linked to many forms of cancer, neurological disorders, and reproductive disorders. Therefore, it’s important to know which foods contain higher levels of pesticide residue so you can reduce your risk for unnecessary health conditions. Although more expensive, a good start is to buy organic fruits and vegetables because they have less pesticide residue.

Foods to buy organic (aka “The Dirty Dozen”):

  • Blueberries
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Lettuce
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Potatoes

Foods to buy conventional (aka “The Clean 15”):

  • Avocados
  • Corn
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kiwi

David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor

View posts by David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.


  1. Harry deCaboApril 3, 2015

    This seems to be another symptom of living in the modern world. We’ve discovered ways to produce food at an astonishing rate, but there seem to be unintended consequences with some of our innovations.
    This news is also unfortunate because it does cost more to buy organic fruits and vegetables. I love to eat apples and grapes, but I would have to cut back if I need to by organic.

  2. NateApril 6, 2015

    Great discussion here. Pesticides are obviously important to our agriculture but I am wondering, what does it take to bring change to the amount of pesticide deemed acceptable by the EPA? I mean if the current amount is known and confirmed to bring about cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders, wouldn’t one assume that the current regulated amount is not sufficient with our ideals?

  3. Yismel RosarioApril 6, 2015

    Agriculture and its ways of implementation affect us every day. Not only do they contribute to being the major cause of carbon emissions but they also affect our health with the products we consume as a result. Who would have thought pesticide has an effect in reproductive health. I wonder if it has a similar effect in women and the viability of the egg, lining of uterus, or anything of that source. The mind-bothering part is that most of the products we consume, even some organic ones, have pesticide residue and we need to consume them to have a balanced diet.

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