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Avoiding Exposure to Chemicals


Christmas is a time of reflection on the year gone by, celebration of new beginnings, and feasting. How often we say: “Well, I went off my diet during the holidays.”

We are immersed in a chemical soup, from the moment we get up today until the moment we get up tomorrow, even through the night. It seems as though there is no way to avoid chemicals in this modern world.

Nevertheless, it is possible to decrease our exposure by avoiding specific classes of chemicals that are put into our food by the manufacturers of “food products”.

The Environmental Working Group has put together a list of the Dirty Dozen Chemicals and how to avoid them. You can download the list here. The list is updated every year.

Pesticides and herbicides are high on the list. Most pesticides (bug-killers) and herbicides (weed-killers) are found both on and in the food we eat.

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp®, is incorporated into the cellular structure of the food, so that even if you wash the skin and peel the vegetable or fruit, you cannot get rid of the herbicide because it has been taken into the cells.

Our two most popular grains are a toxic waste pile. Corn is loaded with Atrazine and wheat is processed with glyphosate to kill it, so that more crops can be planted in a single season.

The EWG reports that potatoes had the highest concentrations of pesticides of any produce.

Genetically engineered foods

Almost all processed foods contain at least one or two ingredients manufactured from genetically engineered crops (soy, corn, cottonseed). However, the produce section of markets generally does not contain GE foods, except for Hawaiian papaya.

Baby and toddler foodsChild with cereal

Apple juice contains multiple pesticides, as does grape juice – unless they are labelled organic.

In 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the EWG shopper’s guide to help parents decide what foods to purchase for their children, citing links between early pesticide exposure and chronic illness such as pediatric cancer, decreased brain function and behavioral problems.


  • Eat organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. See the EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce for a complete listing.
  • At the very least, purchase organic the following products which have the highest chemical residues as measured in 2015: apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.
  • The lowest concentration of pesticides was found in the following products: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
  • Greens – both kale and collards – do generally contain traces of an extremely neurotoxic pesticide. If you eat these greens more than occasionally, EWG recommends to purchase organic.

For further information, read the entire EWG article here. It has excellent references, a good place to start if you want to explore the issue of chemicals in our food.

Be sure to download the EWG Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen to take with you when you go shopping.

You can get a wallet card if you donate $10 to the EWG.

You can also download an app for your iPhone.

For a New Year’s resolution, try this one on for size:

In the new year I will purchase only organic those foods listed on the dirty dozen list.

In the New Year, I will make an effort to learn about chemicals used in personal care products. I will purchase nothing that has its ingredients listed as initials (BPA, DBP, PFC, DEHP, PBDE). I will not use anti-bacterial soaps or cleaning agents with fragrance (Phthalates, used to make vinyl toys soft). I will support the Environmental Working Group in its efforts to help us clean up our bodies and our world.