Who is coming up with these lists and why?
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group specializes in agricultural research and advocacy, and it created the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which outlines what it calls the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables that the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds to have the highest levels of pesticide residues, and the Clean 15 are the ones that have little to no detected pesticide residues. ( The USDA produces the pesticide results that EWG provides to the public.)
But do we need to be concerned about pesticides? The levels found are almost always below the tolerances set by the Food and Drug Administration, so what’s the problem? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there have been studies that show a connection between pesticides and lower fertility rates in women, and children and infants are especially sensitive to pesticides. Exposure during pregnancy can have serious developmental effects on the baby, such as increased risk of congenital disabilities, low birth weight and even fetal death. Exposure in childhood has been linked to learning defciencies and, in some cases cancer.
Much of the produce in the Dirty Dozen are popular and widely used, which can make them difficult to get away from. Environmentally friendly produce washes can help reduce pesticide residues, and in a pinch, a simple baking soda and water mixture works well too. The Clean 15 includes fruits and veggies that, even if they weren’t grown organically, have little to no detected pesticide residue. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, setting up a garden is also a great way to personalize what goes into your body.