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2017 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Pesticides touch every aspect of our lives, they are found in the umbilical cord blood of babies, a mother’s breast milk, and in urine and blood samples as determined in research conducted by the Environmental Working Group and reported by the Centre fo
Mar 15, 2017 | Joy McCarthy

Humans have been farming for the last 10,000 years, yet in the last 60 years we’ve turned to chemical pesticides and biotechnology to grow our food.

This obsession with pesticides was born out of WWII. Before that, farmers relied on moon cycles, crop rotation, homeopathics and farmed in much simpler ways without the use of synethic pesticides. They farmed the way nature intended, and what we now call, “organic farming”.

The reason I share this with you is that pesticides are one of the biggest threats to our health today.

They touch every aspect of our lives, they are found in the umbilical cord blood of babies, a mother’s breast milk, and in urine and blood samples as determined in research conducted by the Environmental Working Group and reported by the Centre for Disease Control.

Big chemical companies wish to brush this off by claiming that “organic is no healthier” but the key point they cannot argue is that the best way to avoid these pesticides getting in to your body is to stop eating them.

In order words, choose organic as often as possible.

I’ve always been passionate about organic food, but now that I’m a mama, I feel even more so because I have a 28lb toddler who is at risk of the damaging health effects that pesticides cause. This isn’t just being over-protective, science agrees. 

A post shared by Joy McCarthy (@joyoushealth) on Mar 8, 2017 at 3:35pm PST

Let's take a look at some of the studies that make me concerned. 

  • In the late 90’s several long-term studies have linked pesticide exposure to lasting brain and nervous system damage in children, shorter pregnancies and lower birth weight babies
  • In 2006, a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that an organic diet significantly reduced children's exposure to pesticides. 
  • In 2007, a study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a sixfold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides.
  • In 2012, the AAP issued a report citing research linking pesticide exposures in early life to an increase in pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioural problems.
  • In 2015, a study by the University of Washington found that people who report they "often or always" buy organic produce had significantly less organophosphate insecticides in their urine samples.
  • In recent animal studies (2017), it has been shown that pesticides disrupts the body’s ability to use antioxidants and harm mitochondrial cells in the brain. 

Beyond the research I’ve just mentioned, pesticides have been linked to a whole array of damaging health effects, including:

Cancer (many pesticides are considered carcinogens or “probable” carcinogens), increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, neurodevelopmental effects, hormone dysfunction and infertility in both men and women.

I share all of this with you because I want you to see the value of organic food. If you are pregnant, nursing or have an infant or any children, please choose organic.

If you don't care about your health and I doubt that's the case, also consider the damaging environmental impacts pesticides have and the effect on marine and animal life. 

For everyone else, keep in mind that every year the Environmental Working Group releases a new Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to help you make informed choices when you're grocery shopping.

Before I share it with you, please consider that while the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are important to recognize, if you want to reduce the overall toxic load for your family, choose organic as often as possible (not just for the "dirty dozen").

This is better for you and the planet. This is what I personally do for my family and recommend to you. 

You can download a printeable copy of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 below.

In closing, my message is simple, if you don’t want to eat pesticides, choose organic! :)

Thanks for reading,


Jess   •   March 16, 2017

Hi! I also live in Ontario and sometimes find greenhouse grown veggies in the supermarket (for example, greenhouse sweet bell peppers at Sobey’s). They’re not organic, but would they likely be pesticide-free as they’re grown in greenhouses? Thanks!

Joy McCarthy   •   March 16, 2017
Janet   •   March 19, 2017
Rachel Molenda   •   March 20, 2017

Frances Cartwright   •   March 16, 2017

Hello Joy - Unfortunately a very large percentage of the population of Canada cannot afford to choose organic food or beauty products because they simply cannot afford them. Posting the lists of "Dirty Dozen" vs "Clean" foods is useful however. I find myself among those who often must use non-organic products - even when I want to make a healthy choice. It's VERY discouraging! Hopefully, if the market for organic products increases, the prices will eventually decrease, making them available to more people.

Joy McCarthy   •   March 16, 2017

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