The Dirty Dozen of 2019

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tests conventional (not organic) fruits and vegetables to assess the level of pesticides. The EWG released their findings this past week in the form of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen lists of 2019. Along with some other shocking facts, like nearly 70% of the conventionally grown produce sold in the United States contain pesticide residues!

(Access last year’s list and article here!)

What is the “Dirty Dozen”?

There were 225 different pesticides and pesticide by-products found during the testing process. The Dirty Dozen is a list of the fruits and veggies that had the highest amount of pesticides present. And to be clear, all produce was washed before being tested!

Dirty Dozen

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

*Spinach and kale both had on average 10-80% more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

What is the “Clean Fifteen”?

You guessed it, this list is the opposite of the Dirty Dozen. More than 70% of the fruits and veggies on the Clean Fifteen list had no pesticide residue at all. With only 6% of the samples containing 2 or more pesticides present.

The Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn *
  3. Pineapples
  4. Sweet peas frozen
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas *
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbages
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupe
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew Melons

*A portion of corn, papaya, and summer squash crops sold in the United States come from genetically modified seeds. If you want to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs), buy these organic.

Now What?

If you read any of my content on toxin-related topics, I probably sound like a broken record. But I’m going to say it again – everyone has different health goals, financial situations, and different degrees of access to organic produce depending on location. The bottom line is, do what you can. My goal of talking about this is simply to inform you, the consumer, about what is being put into the body. Informed decisions are the best ones!

When buying all produce organic is not realistic, prioritize the Dirty Dozen. The Clean Fifteen can be bottom priority for buying organic since they contain the least amount of pesticides.

With pregnant and breastfeeding mamas, as well as children, I encourage buying organic as much as possible. These are high risk and vulnerable groups where pesticides can have a deeper impact. To read more about how pesticides act as toxins, go to How Toxins Impact Health.

For a list of helpful and informative resources, go here. It even includes maps of local farmers in your area to have easier access to organic produce. Or even easier, delivery services straight to your door!

Other Resources

How to Reduce Toxin Exposure

How Toxins Impact Health explains the types of toxins, where they’re hidden, and the health effects of carrying a large toxic burden. This post gives tips and more resources to begin (or advance) the journey to reducing toxin exposure!

As a reminder before diving in – this is a process. The goal is progress over perfection when it comes to switching to a more natural lifestyle. The process can be overwhelming and pricey if done all at once. Pick one area of the home and gradually do the rest at a speed that’s comfortable for you and your lifestyle.

Kitchen

Products

Where do most people store their cleaning products? Under the kitchen sink. Smack dab in the place where dishes and utensils are washed, food is prepped, and where there is direct or indirect exposure to our mouths. Eek! What can be done?

  • Consider where cleaning supplies are kept. If the switch to non-toxic alternatives has not been made, move cleaning supplies to a closet or other location where there is no exposure to food.
  • Transition cleaning supplies to non-toxic alternatives. Think about wiping counter tops with bleach and harsh chemicals and the increase in toxin exposure. This is where we place hands, chop food, and likely putting hands or food directly into the mouth after. In my opinion, natural cleaning wipes or sprays should be the priority of all the cleaning supplies.
  • Use apps like Think Dirty or Healthy Living while browsing store aisles to help choose non-toxic cleaning products. Do not be deceived by confusing labels like “natural” or “scent-free”, that does not automatically mean non-toxic.
  • Don’t forget about the dish and dishwasher soap. Remember, these products are the ones that have the most direct contact with plates and silverware (which have the most direct contact with us!)

Bisphenol A (BPA) is released from its source at an increase of 55-fold if it’s heated (1).

  • Avoid microwaving food in plastic or styrofoam containers (i.e. take-out food or leftovers stored in plastic tupperware).
  • Switch to a non-toxic mug for hot beverages.
  • Remove plastic lids when drinking a hot beverage from a coffee shop.
  • Transition plastic tupperware to glass storage containers. This can be costly if done all at once, look for sales or search Amazon to compare options.
  • Do not freeze plastic water bottles.

Other toxin sources:

  • Replace non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
  • Replace plastic cooking utensils with utensils made of wood or other non-toxic materials.
  • Swap traditional coffee filters, which contain bleach, to natural alternatives.
  • Filter tap water.
  • Keep an eye out for non-toxic (and usually environmentally-friendly) alternatives to plastic wrap and plastic baggies. I have used brands like Bee’s Wrap and ChicoBag.
  • Use stainless steel or glass water bottles.

Home

From small tweaks to major changes, there’s many options for decreasing the amount of toxins in the household.

  • Remove shoes at the door. This avoids tracking in chemicals from the outside.
  • Swap artificial scents (plug-ins, air fresheners, scented candles) for other forms of aromatherapy. Natural alternatives could be soy-based candles, using essential oils in diffusers, or looking for fragrance-free products.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. This type of filter removes contaminated house dust and helps clean the air.
  • When purchasing furniture and carpet avoid “flame-retardant” or “stain and water-resistant” options. They usually contain chemicals like perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Look for naturally less flammable materials (ex: organic cotton, wool, and more).
  • Address old paint in older homes or apartments if needed. More of a concern if living in a house from pre-1970’s.
  • Add air-purifying plants as home decor. Healthline has an excellent list along with which toxin each plant is best at eliminating.

Bathroom

Beauty products

The body’s natural detoxification system helps to get rid of toxins that are consumed orally. Remember, everyone’s detoxification systems work at different rates and efficiencies (discussed in How Toxins Impact Health). It’s a different story when products are put directly on our skin. The skin is a porous organ and can absorb what’s put on it, directly into the bloodstream.

Transitioning beauty and personal care products is extremely individualized. Consider factors like how sensitive your skin is, how frequently you use the product (to help prioritize), and cost. With the high demand, there is an increasingly growing number of natural options on the market.

Consider swapping…

  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Dry shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Make-up
  • Body lotion
  • Face masks
  • Face cleansing products (wash, toner, lotions, etc.)
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothpaste & mouth wash
  • Facial and body scrubs

Where to look

The rest

  • Avoid anti-bacterial soaps.
  • Swap laundry detergent and drier sheets for natural alternatives. Look for non-toxic and unscented detergents. Instead of drier sheets, dryer balls can be used and scented with essential oils.
  • Add a filtered showerhead to filter out chemicals in water.
  • Transition cleaning supplies to non-toxic alternatives using apps listed under “Kitchen – Products”.
  • Replace vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one.

Conclusion

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to reducing toxin exposure, but it does not mean everything needs to happen at once. The transition has taken years for me and has had shifting priorities of what to tackle first. That’s ok! Live life in the way that rings true to you and aligns with your health goals.


Resources

  1. Le, H. “Bisphenol A is released from polycarbonate drinking bottles and mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons.” Toxicology Letters 176.2 (2008): 149-156. PubMed Central. Web. 22 Feb 2019.