According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time." These effects can be especially harmful to children because they weigh less and their natural detoxification mechanisms are still developing.
Due to the effects result from low levels of long-term exposure, choosing pesticide-free organic options will reduce your family’s exposure to toxic pesticides.
Organic vs. Inorganic
The Environmental Working Group has released the 2013 version of its "Dirty Dozen," a list of fruits and vegetables most likely to contain pesticide residue. For the second year in a row, this list has grown (adding summer squash, zucchini and hot peppers). It is now called the "Dirty Dozen Plus."
The EPA has tested and approved the use of more than 1,000 synthetic pesticides. All of which are poisonous if exposed to excess.
Organically grown foods are raised without any of them. As a result, they contain significantly less pesticide than conventional foods. Even areas with limited access to truly organic foods can now benefit from online sources that offer a wide variety of toxin-free, all-natural whole foods.
People absorb toxins in one of three ways: inhaling, consuming and absorbing through our skin. Eating foods containing the residues of pesticides and other toxins is the most common cause of increased toxicity.
Though peeling and washing your fresh produce is an intelligent practice, it will not completely rid your fruits and vegetables of pesticides. Toxins—especially pesticides—will seep into the flesh of a fruit or vegetable.
Simply scrubbing the outside of a contaminated apple will not prevent toxins from entering your body.
Reducing your Toxicity
A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that eating organic produce can significantly reduce bodily toxicity. The study provided five consecutive days' worth of organic food to children who typically ate a non-organic, conventional diet.
After just five days, almost all pesticides had disappeared from the subjects' urine samples.
"This shows there definitely is a beneficial effect of eating organic produce," said study leader Dr. Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology.
Breaking Down the 'Dirty Dozen Plus'
Each of these foods—when conventional, not organic—made the list because test results revealed alarming levels of pesticide residue. Here is the 2013 list:
Apples. The dirtiest of the bunch. Ninety-nine percent of apples contained at least one pesticide.
Celery. At worst, a single sample revealed 13 pesticides.
Cherry Tomatoes. Similar to celery, one sample also contained the residue of 13 different pesticides.
Cucumbers. The third most contaminated vegetable, these should always be peeled and rinsed before eating.
Grapes. "A single grape tested positive for 15 pesticides."
Hot Peppers. Previously not on the list, recent tests showed these contain the seventh greatest amount of pesticide residues.
Nectarines (Imported). Every imported nectarine tested was shown to contain pesticide residue.
Peaches. Contained the fourth highest amount of pesticides among all fruits tested.
Potatoes. "The average potato had much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop."
Spinach. After celery, the second most contaminated conventional vegetable.
Strawberries. Ranked as the second dirtiest conventionally grown fruit on the market.
Sweet Bell Peppers. One of these was as contaminated as a single grape.
Collard greens, kale, summer squash and zucchini made the "Plus" portion of the list because they were found to contain pesticides that had previously been banned from agriculture. The toxic organophosphates that landed green beans on last year’s list are now being found in leafy greens.
Organophosphates and Organochlorines
According to the EWG, "Tests in 2008 found that some domestically-grown summer squash--zucchini and yellow crookneck squash--contained residues of harmful organochlorine pesticides (like DDT) that were phased out of agriculture in the 1970s and 1980s but that linger on some farm fields."
Both organophosphates and organochlorine are "exceptionally toxic to the nervous system," and may cause many of the following:
Organochlorine pesticides have been strongly linked to increased risk of breast cancers, according to the Oxford Journal "Toxicological Sciences."
What You Can Do
Shop organic and take the steps to detoxify your body. This does not mean you must immediately drop everything for a juice cleanse, but you should make efforts to utilize glutathione, vitamin D and other powerful antioxidants that protect your body.
By eating clean, organic foods and choosing high-quality, whole-food supplements, you can help your family avoid the pain and illness associated with chronic toxicity.