Monday, May 16, 2011

The Dirty Dozen - How To Best Avoid Harmful Toxins In Your Produce....

When I say the words The Dirty Dozen, what’s the first thing to pop into your mind? If you’re like most people you just thought of the 1967 film staring Lee Marvin, and Ernest Borgnine. This however is not The Dirty Dozen I’m talking about.

Organic. It’s a word that’s been getting thrown around a lot in the past few years, as people all across the nation and the world are slowly becoming aware of where their food comes from, how it’s grown, and how those practices effect not only our own health but our environment as well. The Organic food market is currently the fastest growing market in the food industry, and grocers that want to remain afloat in today’s brutal economy are slowly but surely - and wisely - expanding their Organic lines for consumers. Yet there’s still a lot of confusion about what organic really means, and quite a bit of skepticism as to whether or not it’s truly better. (Topics better discussed another time, and both in their own individual post) However the biggest complain I hear on a day to day basis is entirely price related.

"But, Organic costs too much." Is what I always hear, and while it’s true that organic food appears to cost more then conventionally grown food the reality is in fact quite different. The average consumer has not been paying the true cost of food for quite some time. As various industries - Such as the Meat, and Dairy Industries - enjoy the benefit of multiple government subsidies which keep the cost of these products artificially low. Except it’s not just the meat, and dairy producers that benefit. The government also highly subsidizes the growing of Corn, Wheat, and Soy, and the same is now going for conventionally grown produce which is laden with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Many of which are toxic, pollutants, and known disease promoting agents.

Because organic farms doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and because organic farms don’t operate on such a massive industrialized scale, Organic farmer’s yields are not as large. Organic farms also employ more manual labor - which requires payment, which drives up cost - and another important thing to take into consideration is the cost in dollars as well as the cost in time that it takes to switch a non-organic farm to an organic one. The certification process isn’t cheap, and it isn’t quick either. All these things contribute to the grocery store price of organic goods. However if conventional farms weren’t subsidized by the government a conventional tomato would cost the same as an organic one. When you buy organic products you’re not only doing something good for yourself - by not ingesting harmful toxins - but you’re also doing good for our planet, Organic farming is sustainable, it enriches our soil rather then depletes it by filling it with chemicals, you’re working with the earth instead of against it, like nature intended, and you’re expressing compassion in the process. Compassion for yourself, as well as compassion for the earth we inhabit and all the creatures that share it with us.

Now I understand that for a lot of people it simply isn’t feasible to buy everything organic all of the time. I know this, because I myself am in that boat. I’m a lower-middle-class girl after all; but I know that buying organic is important, and so I do it whenever and wherever I can. I do it with the health of my husband and I as my first thought, and the planet as my second. I don’t want to eat harmful cancer causing toxins, I want to eat clean food that will nourish my body rather then destroy it, but to fit organics into the budget you have to shop smart, and so here is The Dirty Dozen list. It’s the Environmental Working Groups list of Fruits and Vegetables that are most toxic when grown conventionally. If you can’t yet afford to buy everything organic, then this list at least is a great place to start. The items found on this list are so heavily sprayed that USDA testing found that they could contain anywhere between 47-67 toxic pesticides, and that was AFTER being washed with a USDA high-powered pressure water system. Now I know there is no way the water pressure of your household sink is going to top that, so next time you’re in the store please give some thought to buying these foods organic counterparts.

The Dirty Dozen

1) Celery
2) Peaches
3) Strawberries
4) Apples
5) Blueberries (Domestic)
6) Nectarines
7) Bell Peppers
8) Spinach, Kale, and Collard Greens
9) Cherries
10) Potatoes
11) Grapes (imported)
12) Lettice

These foods are believed to be the most susceptible because of their soft, sometimes porous skin which allows the fruit and vegetables to easily absorb more pesticides. Vegetables like celery can also absorb pesticides from the soil and groundwater as they grow, making washing or peeling pesticides away virtually impossible.

Amy Rosenthal of the Environmental Working Group - which is a non-profit organization dedicated to public health - says "You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by up to 80 percent by buying the organic versions of the Dirty Dozen" 80 percent! It really is something to consider when new studies are coming out all the time showing a correlation between pesticide ingestion and health problems such as cancer, ADHD, nervous system disorders, and brain developmental disorders in growing children. With such chemical compounds such as DDT and Methyl Bromide being used is it any wonder?

Changing anything in one’s life is difficult, we get used to a certain way of things and it can often be difficult if not down right impossible to snap ourselves out if it, but I strongly and sincerely urge you to give this some consideration. Especially if you have children. I think we can all agree that we want our children to grow up strong, healthy and with the best possible chances for living a long, happy, and healthy life. I think we can all agree that we’d like to leave this planet a better place than we found it, and that we’d like to leave a world for our grandchildren that’s still inhabitable. This is a small but crucial step towards that goal, and remember the more we choose to buy organic, the more our demand is recognized by ‘Big Food’ and the more that demand begs to be met. Also I don’t want to label the entire Food Industry as some dark bogeyman in the corner laughing down at the destruction they’re causing. Think of them more as a corporation, with their sole concern being profit, by continuing to buy their products we’re giving them the false idea that we support their destructive agricultural practices and therefor they continue to engage in them. Our pennies speak louder then our words, and so the more organic we buy, the sooner they’re going to realize that they won’t loose money by switching over, and of course with more and more of us choosing organic everyday, the lower the cost of organic goods will eventually go. It’s common sense - and a little bit of math.

So please, act and eat responsibly, and if you’re interested in learning more please visit the Environmental Working Group’s website (  ) for the latest updates and information on everything from pesticides in food, to harmful compounds in cosmetics and cleaning products.

*** P.S. Just last year Pears and Carrots were on the Dirty Dozen list, and in 2008 Tomatoes were on the list as well. Though these items appear to now be in the clear, it might still be a good idea to consider buying their organic varieties.***


  1. So crazy! I just think back to all the things I ate growing up that must've been on this list at some time. Yikes! But it's never too late to start going organic & I feel better knowing we're supporting those who try to grow their food organically.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, i think of all the junk i grew up eating and i hope it's not to late to purge that stuff out of my body.

    I too feel better about supporting those who are trying to make a difference in the world rather then those who are neglectful, or simply don't care