You may be aware by now that health is not just about the types of foods we eat, but also the quality and purity of the foods we are eating. I was about to write an article about which foods to prioritize as organic purchases, but then I remembered that the clean 15 and dirty dozen list we often refer to is based on research in the U.S. by the Environmental Working Group. I have done some research on which foods have the most detectable levels of pesticides and other toxins in Australia for our local reference. Check out the tables below.
The purposes of the 2008 Australian total diet study (1) was to determine whether the detectable levels of chemicals in foods from agricultural and veterinary chemical residues are below the referenced levels for human safety. The findings showed that the estimated dietary exposure for contaminants were below the relevant health standards for all population groups both based on average consumption and high consumption. This is good news, however, I do wonder what is considered safe human levels, and how is this determined? Also, there doesn’t appear to be any safety data on the many possible combinations of chemicals applied to a food, and how these combined chemicals are broken down.
The evidence is stacking up that in all cases, we want to be minimizing our exposure to any contaminants to prevent a cumulative effect overall. In order to do so, the goal is to choose organic where possible for the foods where the most potential contaminants are going to be present.
“All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison….” Paracelsus (1493-1541).
Organic eating can put a strain on the purse strings, but here are five ways you can reduce your organic food bill.
- Start a garden. This can be done even with minimal space using planters on your patio and small pots on your windowsill for herbs. Strawberries are easy to grow in this manner. This website has some great tips to help you get started. https://ecoorganicgarden.com.au/
- Avoid the high risk – dirty dozen foods as a priority for your organic food purchase, and wash other produce well.
- Buy your produce from your local farmer’s markets. This can save a pretty penny while supporting the grower’s directly, not to mention it’s fun!
- Organic home delivery options may be helpful in assigning your food budget each week. Just search organic delivery in your area.
- If buying non- organic produce wash it well. This won’t remove all the residues, but will certainly help minimize what you consume. Just prior to use, soak vegetables or hard fruits in a 1 part vinegar 3 parts water solution in a basin for up to 20 minutes. Then rub or scrub each item under running water before setting on a clean towel or strainer to dry.
Dirty Dozen – Make these a priority to buy organic.
|Oranges||Sweet Bell Peppers (aka|
This table below shows a list of foods with the most pesticide detectable at the time of consumption. Friends of the Earth list of The top 20 foods Australian Foods with the most pesticide detections 2000-2011.(2)
|Food||Agricultural and Veterinary chemicals detected in foods||Adverse effects (see table below for specifics on each chemical)|
|Contact may cause dermatitis and conjunctivitis. Classed by the EPA as a probable cancer causing agents. |
May cause genetic defects, reproductive toxicity- may affect fertility or cause damage to an unborn child
|Wheat (in breads, breakfast cereals, biscuits)||Chlorpyrifos-methyl|
|A study of the effects of chlorpyrifos on humans exposed over time showed that people exposed to high levels have autoimmune antibodies that are common in people with autoimmune disorders. There is a strong correlation to chronic illness associated with autoimmune disorders after exposure to chlorpyrifos. Among 50 farm pesticides studied, chlorpyrifos was one of two found to be associated with higher risks of lung cancer among frequent pesticide applicators than among infrequent or non-users.Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate, with potential for both acute toxicity at larger amounts and neurological effects in fetuses and children even at very small amounts.|
|Contact may cause dermatitis and conjunctivitis. Classed by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen.|
May effect the nervous system, human reproduction and damage organs. Product from Asian countries may be contaminated with chlorpyrifos also.
|May effect the nervous system, human reproduction and damage organs. |
Suspected of causing cancer
|Toxic to acquatic life with long lasting effects. Causes damage to organs through long or repeated exposure.|
Causes respiratory irritation, skin and eye irritation, suspected carcinogen.
Endosulfan – beta
|Chicken breast & Eggs||Nicarbazin|
Added to chicken feed to prevent illness and coccidiosis. Affects bird fertility. (? impact on human fertility)
Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects. Causes damage to organs through long or repeated exposure
|Broccoli & Cabbage||dithiocarbamate|
|May cause genetic defects, reproductive toxin- may affect fertility or cause damage to an unborn child.|
Suspected of causing cancer
*Propargite has proven to be the pesticide with the highest dietary exposure in Australia! (2)
For reference, see below a list of some of these chemicals and their associated toxicities, bearing in mind that this does not take into account the effects of combining these chemicals as there is not data on this. (3)
|Pesticide||Used for||Potential effects of exposure|
|Captan||Fungicide used fruits, vegetables and flowers||Contact may cause dermatitis and conjunctivitis. Classed by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen.|
|Carbendazim||Broad spectrum antifungal which acts systemically.||May cause genetic defects, reproductive toxin- may affect fertility or cause damage to an unborn child|
|Chlorpyrifos||Insecticide||A study of the effects of chlorpyrifos on humans exposed over time showed that people exposed to high levels have autoimmune antibodies that are common in people with autoimmune disorders. There is a strong correlation to chronic illness associated with autoimmune disorders after exposure to chlorpyrifos. Among 50 farm pesticides studied, chlorpyrifos was one of two found to be associated with higher risks of lung cancer among frequent pesticide applicators than among infrequent or non-users.Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate, with potential for both acute toxicity at larger amounts and neurological effects in fetuses and children even at very small amounts|
|Diphenylamine||Used to prevent skin imperfections such as SCALD on apples. Used to treat screwworm in beef, goats and sheep.||Irritant to mucous membranes, may cause blood disorders affecting hemoglobin, may cause organ damage through prolonged or repeated exposure.|
|Endosulfan||Insecticide||Toxic if swallowed. Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.|
|Iprodione||Fungicide||Suspected of causing cancer|
|Propargite*||To kill mites or ticks on plants||Toxic if inhaled, suspected of causing cancer.|
|Tebufenpyrad||insecticide||Causes damage to organs through prolonged and repeated exposure.|
|Dicofol||Organochlorine insecticide||Skin irritation, may cause damage to organs with prolonged or repeated exposure.|
|Dimethoate||Organophosphate insecticide||May effect the nervous system, human reproduction and damage organs.|
|Chlorathalonil||Fungicide||Causes respiratory irritation, skin and eye irritation, suspected carcinogen|
|Nicarbazin||Antiparasitic/antibiotic||Added to chicken feed to prevent illness and coccidiosis. Affects bird fertility. (? impact on human fertility)|
|Methomyl||Insecticide||Toxic to acquatic life with long lasting effects. Causes damage to organs through long or repeated exposure|
*EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
*Carcinogen = cancer causing agent
*Systemically – means it goes right through the plant, not just a surface action. Therefore peeling or washing won’t reduce exposure.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15387079# The risk of adverse reproductive and developmental disorders due to occupational pesticide exposure: an overview of current epidemiological evidence.Hanke W1, Jurewicz J.