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  • Dr. Lesa Lawson

Washing The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen!

This title is being bandied about with increasing frequency. What does it mean?

Simply put, the dirty dozen refers to the fruits and vegetables that have the highest levels of pesticide contamination. Some people wonder why this is such a big concern; after all, we wash our vegetables, do we not? Yes, most of us do. There is a percentage of people, though, who do rub their apples on their clothing before taking a huge bite. I will come back to you in a bit.

The unfortunate fact is that the pesticides that are sprayed on some of these fruits and veggies are not removed with a simple wash. Some pesticides are added when the fruit trees and vegetable patches are in their infancy; the pesticides, therefore, grow with the produce. The produce is also sprayed with wax to increase shelf life. While the wax is supposedly food grade, the body finds it indigestible and is said to pass it out. That makes me wonder. Does it do the same for you?

Truth be told, there are more than a dozen fruits and vegetables on the ‘Dirty’ list. The organic types of these should be purchased, if at all possible, or consider growing some of them, organically, yourself. A couple of pots on or near a window can house tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and a few others. Here are the most contaminated of them all, as tested by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that protect global and individual health:

  • apples (contain the highest amounts of pesticides) peaches

  • nectarines

  • strawberries

  • grapes

  • celery

  • spinach

  • sweet bell peppers

  • cucumbers

  • cherry tomatoes

  • imported snap peas

  • potatoes

  • leafy greens (among them, kale and collard greens)

  • hot peppers

  • blueberries

Many of us do not realize the extent to which pesticides affect our health, not only in the fetus but also in young children and yes, adults. The EWG substantiates this, and there is also a growing consensus within the scientific community.

To those, then, who were satisfied to rub the apples on the front of your clothing, please reconsider. Wash them for your own health and yes, for the health of your family. After all, if you are unwell, they are, as well.

A 2015 study by Environmental Health Perspectives [Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408197] showed that people who eat organic produce have lower levels of organophosphate insecticides measured in their bodies even though they eat more produce than people who buy mostly conventional grown fruits and vegetables.

Healthy Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables

* Soak fruits and veggies in a sink or pan of clean water and white vinegar (ratio of 3 to 1) for at least 20-30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly in fresh, clean water, afterwards. Use a gentle vegetable brush when cleaning.

* To kill bacteria, including E. coli, Colorado State University advises blending lemon juice with the vinegar-water mixture. This increases the acidity and also prevents molding of softer fruits. You can even add a dash of baking soda to the mix.

* (My favorite) Kangen water (Strong Kangen Water (pH 11) and Kangen Water® (pH 8.5 – 9.5) can clean

and disinfect your fruits and vegetables) . According to Enagic, for pesticide-treated produce, “Strong Kangen Water is a great emulsifier for cleaning these harmful chemicals off your food. Pesticides are oil-based, so rain water and tap water can’t get rid of them but Strong Kangen Water is a powerful tool against germs, bacteria, and pesticides! Regular Kangen Water® won’t have the same disinfectant strength, but it is a much better alternative than tap water when you need to rinse your produce.” []

Note: Washing produce with dish soap or other detergents is not a good idea. Soap is not for human consumption and clings to your fruits and veggies more than you may realize. The chemicalized soapy residue is actually hard to remove sometimes, if there are minute nicks and scratches on your produce, the soap penetrates and goes right into your body, causing harm, even in minute doses. The same warning applies to bleach.At the end of the day, you will be eating clean produce that is so beneficial to the body. Fruits and vegetables, especially in their natural state, or juiced or even lightly steamed (where applicable) provide a host of nutrients for which your body will be grateful.

To your health

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