If the saying “You are what you eat” is true, then I’m toxic. At least, that’s what the Environmental Working Group would deduce from the long list of produce that my family consumes on a daily basis that they dubb “The Dirty Dozen.”
And I’m a big fan of the Environmental Working Group (EWG). I’ve written about the EWG in a prior posting, “Don’t Get Burned by Unsafe Sunscreens.”
The EWG is an impartial non-profit organization unaffiliated with any consumer products company (composed of a team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers) and conducts research on products to expose threats to consumers and the environment.
Who would have known you could be ingesting 13 pesticides when you consume a stalk of non-organic celery? Or that if you eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list below that you consume an average of 10 pesticides per day?
From 2000-2008, the EWG reviewed over 96,000 produce pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine which fruits and vegetables contain the most and least amount of pesticides and found the following (for the full list click here):
“The Dirty Dozen” (High in Pesticides)
Contains 2-13 pesticides per serving!
7. Bell Peppers
12. Grapes (Imported)
“The Clean 15” (Low in Pesticides)
3. Sweet Corn
6. Sweet Peas
14. Sweet Potato
15. Honeydew Melon
So what’s the big deal with pesticides anyways?
Most doctors and researchers will tell you that even small doses of pesticides can cause long-term damage to humans, especially during pregnancy and early childhood. Studies have found an association between pesticides and cancer, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), nervous system disorders and hormone system effects. The EWG warns “Pesticides are designed to kill living organisms. Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health dangers to people, risks that have been established by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.”
And if you’re thinking that you can simply wash the pesticides away from the skin of the fruit, you’re wrong.
The pesticides get into the water that the fruits ingest, which becomes part of the flesh of the fruit. Also, most of the fruits and vegetables listed in the “Dirty Dozen” have soft skins, and pesticides get absorbed into the flesh of the fruit.
Therefore, to the extent that you can splurge on organic versions of the Dirty Dozen, splurge away. The good news is that several studies have shown that eating an organic diet for two weeks reduces the presence of pesticides in people’s bodies by 90%.
Now if only money grew on trees alongside organic fruit trees, we’d all be set!
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