In the last post, we defined ‘organic’ and revealed the Clean 17. Even with this list, the decision to buy organic is one that is not as black and white as it may seem. The choice to purchase organic products is one
that is quite personal in nature, but is usually a weighted decision
based on 4 key factors. These key factors include Chemical Toxins, Global Impact, Ethics, and Nutrition. With so much information to share about each factor, we will explore them throughout our ongoing 6 part series on Going Organic.
The first key factor we’ll consider is one that appeals to me both as a physician and mother of two beautiful children. That factor is Chemical Toxins. First off, what is a ‘Chemical Toxin,” you may ask? In
the world of farming, there are many ‘natural’ challenges to deal with
such as insects, weeds, poor soil and fungi (to name a few). A
hundred years ago, farmers learned how to use ‘nature to combat
nature’, using ‘good’ insects to control ‘bad’ insects/fungus, food
compost to improve soil conditions, and good old fashion labor to keep
weeds at bay. Organic farming methods today are actually just refined farming methods that our country was built on. As
farming became more and more commercialized, pressures for increased
profits and larger yield brought about the use of synthetic and/or toxic
chemicals. These chemicals include pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. The FDA now estimates that the average American’s food is exposed to about 20 lbs of pesticides per person.
DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is a great example of how a chemical compound can yield dangerous results when commercialized. DDT was used as a large-scale pesticide during WWII. Soldiers were routinely doused with the powder form of DDT to protect against insect-borne disease. It took over 30 years for us to learn that this Noble-Prize winning chemical causes serious birth defects and infertility. Ultimately,
DDT was banned in 1972; however a 2001 clinical study published in a
prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, showed that DDT ‘breakdown
products’ were still present in the umbilical cords of premature new
born babies. Areyou picking up what I am putting down? These chemicals that were banned 18 years prior were still turning up in the blood of premature (“sick”) babies born in 2001. That’s quite concerning to me, both as a mother and a physician.
While DDT is no longer used, the wide-spread use of synthetic chemical pesticides are the norm for much of our food supply. Conventional farming uses ‘chemicals to combat nature’ as opposed to organic farming which works to have ‘nature combat nature’. Strawberries are a great example as 65 synthetic chemicals are approved for the use of growing strawberry crops. You might seriously consider this the next time you reach for a conventionally grown strawberry.
It is the role of the EPA to determine ‘acceptable risk’ levels for chemicals used in farming. These chemicals are tested on adults, but of course, kids are smaller and likely can suffer from issues at smaller levels of exposure. In reality, the produce that kids eat most often tend to be the most heavily treated with pesticides (e.g. grapes, apples, and strawberries). The EPA currently considers 33% of registered pesticides to be cancer-causing. I think the EPA is getting better at identifying potentially-harmful chemicals before they’re approved for use…BUT for now, I do my part and limit my family’s exposure to foods grown using an abundance of chemicals.
my last blog, I provided you with the list of the Cleanest 17 fruits
and vegetables so that you could shop with a cleaner conscience. Based on today’s discussion, I will leave you with the list of the “Dirtiest.” These are the produce items that I try to purchase organic as much as possible. But I understand we are all a ‘work-in-progess’ so do the best you can. If
it is not feasible for you to purchase all of these foods organic,
there are a few things you can consider – (1) I strongly recommend a
quality fruit and vegetable wash to remove as much chemical residue as
possible, (2) select the produce from this list that you eat more than
once per week and commit to purchasing that organic, (3) since this list
is in order of ‘dirtiest’ first, consider making the commitment to
purchase the first 4 or 6 or 8 organic. Every little bit helps.
So, until next time, I leave you with The Dirty Dozen!