The Dirty Dozen
The Dirty Dozen is a list compiled each year by the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) that ranks fruits and vegetables by USDA reports of pesticide findings. The USDA found 146 different pesticides on samples of fruits and vegetables, and found that even when the food was washed, many pesticides were still on them.
Why should you worry about pesticides on your food? The sole purpose of pesticides is to kill living organisms. We are living organisms. Pesticides are linked to cancer, hormone disruption, developmental problems in children, and neurological problems. The Dirty Dozen list empowers consumers by informing us of which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are likely to have the most pesticides. That way, consumers can decide which food they want to purchase organic, and which foods are not as important to buy organic.
The first food on the list is strawberries. Strawberries are particularly vulnerable because of the nature of the fruit; the outside of the berry absorbs the pesticides and therefore they will not go away when washed. The USDA reports that strawberry growers use 60 different pesticides in different combinations. Strawberry growers are also known to use poisonous gases (some of which were developed for chemical warfare and banned by the Geneva Convention) in order to kill all weeds, pests and other living things in their soil to sterilize it before they plant the strawberries. Whenever possible, choose organic strawberries for yourself and your family.
Apples are the second food on the list, meaning they are the second-most contaminated fruit with pesticides. Tractors are driven directly next to the apple trees, and use a mechanical spraying device that sprays pesticides to coat the leaves and the exterior of the fruit. Pesticides then adhere directly to the skin and can even seep into the core near the stem of the fruit.
Anytime a fruit or vegetable is sprayed with pesticides, not only does it endanger the health of the people eating it, it endangers the person working to spray the pesticides and also endangers nearby communities with a “pesticide drift.” Some of the pesticides get caught in the wind, and contaminate the air for people living near the farm. By purchasing organic, you are making a statement with your purchasing power that not only do you care about the health of yourself and your family, but you also care about the health of the workers and the communities near the producers of the food. If everyone only bought organic apples, the demand for conventional would be non-existent, thus pushing apple producers to go organic.
The next ten foods, in order, on the Dirty Dozen list are: Nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, and kale/collard greens. These are all foods that are the most important to buy organic if you eat them.
The Environmental Working Group also publishes the “Clean Fifteen” list, which ranks the produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticides. These foods are, in order: Avocados, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangos, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, honeydew melon, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and cauliflower. When purchasing these, it is not as important to the health of you and your family to purchase organic, so save your money to purchase organic from the Dirty Dozen list!