To those of a certain age, The Dirty Dozen is an awardwinning film starring Lee Marvin about a suicide mission on a Nazi-inhabited French chateau during WWII. These days, however, the name has been cleverly repurposed by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that compiles a virtual who’s who of conventionally grown produce with the highest and lowest amounts of pesticide residue.
Ostensibly, strawberries should provide you with tons of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but they also could secretly be delivering a hearty dose of chemicals, fungicide or even DDT to you and your family. “Conventional agriculture continues to use large quantities of toxic pesticides, and USDA and FDA researchers detect residue on many of the fruits and vegetables they test,” says Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., EWG toxicologist.
What’s more, those 40,900 produce samples are not carefully plucked from a choice vine and tested for residue in the field. They are actually tested after they have been purchased, brought home and washed in preparation for consumption. “You are what you eat,” quips Vincent Esposito, MS, DC, health coach and nutrition specialist. “In the case of food grown in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, this could not be more true, becauseas consumers, we end up ingesting these residues.”
Under the Food Quality Protection Act, the Environmental Protection Agency must ensure that all pesticides used on food in the U.S. meet stringent safety standards, and over the years, they have collectively banned the use of certain products because of nefarious side effects. But the question remains: Do these legal “tolerance” levels adequately protect public health? “Pesticides are toxic by design and are created expressly to kill living organisms,” Temkin says. “Many studies show disturbing links between pesticides and a variety of health problems, including brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer and hormone disruption.”
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