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Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: What They Really Mean for You

Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: What They Really Mean for You

Are you worried about the toxic pesticides in your fruits and vegetables? Did you know there are resources available to provide you with the knowledge to help reduce your pesticide exposure?

The EWG's yearly Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists can help.

More on this topic below.

dirty dozen and clean 15
  • How harmful are pesticides in food?

  • Are pesticides affecting my health?

  • Which pesticides are harmful for crop production?

When I search for pesticides, I run into these questions on Quora [1]. And I get why this worries people.

Pesticides function to suppress pests and diseases that can ruin crops, but they can pose hazards to humans and animals.

As a certified Health Coach, I acknowledge how confusing eating healthily can be, especially thinking about what happens before the food even reaches your plate.

So let's examine this in more detail.

Table Of Contents

What is the "Dirty Dozen"?

The EWG's Dirty Dozen list annually names the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide levels. Based on USDA and FDA testing, this list identifies the produce with the most pesticides [2].

The goal? To guide you in decision-making and decrease your contact with harmful pesticides, if you choose.

What is the Dirty Dozen

The 2024 Dirty Dozen

The EWG analysis of 46 foods revealed these 12 as having the highest pesticide contamination [3].

1 Strawberries

5 Peaches

9 Bell and hot peppers

2 Spinach

6 Pears

10 Cherries

3 Kale, collard & mustard greens

7 Nectarines

11 Blueberries

4 Grapes

8 Apples

12 Green beans

The Impact of the Dirty Dozen: Why Should You Care?

Consuming high doses of these foods can increase pesticide intake, which can cause various health problems in the future.

Awareness of the Dirty Dozen provides you with the knowledge to make an informed decision. It can help you to select options that suit your health standards, such as purchasing organic produce or conventional produce. [4].

The Clean 15: Why They Matter?

The Environmental Working Group annually identifies and lists fifteen conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that stand out for their low pesticide residue levels. 

The Clean 15: Why They Matter

These are the items that, according to EWG’s thorough tests, you can comfortably buy their conventional/ non-organic versions.

The 2024 Clean 15 List

EWG's review of recent USDA data revealed these 15 items to contain the lowest levels of pesticide residues [5].

1 Avocado

6 Sweet Peas (frozen)

11 Mushrooms

2 Sweetcorn

7 Asparagus

12 Mangoes

3 Pineapple

8 Honeydew Melon

13 Sweet Potatoes

4 Onions

9 Kiwi

14 Watermelon

5 Papaya

10 Cabbage

15 Carrots

Why Are These Foods 'Clean'?

The 'clean' status of these fifteen fruits and vegetables mostly stems from their farming practices. For some, their thick skins protect from pests, reducing pesticide needs, while others naturally attract fewer pests.

Organic vs. Conventional Produce

Understanding Organic vs. Conventional Produce

Organic farming aligns with natural processes. Without synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or chemical fertilizers [6]. 

Organic farming equates to nurturing produce using nature's resources. It mirrors the principles of traditional farming techniques that past generations likely used.

The cultivation of conventional produce involves modern agricultural procedures and often incorporates chemicals to spur growth and repel pests. This approach prioritizes efficiency and uses the latest scientific innovations to optimize production [7].

Organic and Conventional: What's the Difference?

Key distinctions come from the practices; organic farming prioritizes soil health, ecosystem stability, and biodiversity. 

In crop production, organic farmers often utilize substances permitted in organic farming and rely on methods like composting and crop rotation.

It's fair to compare conventional farming to a high-output industrial operation, where output, quantity, and cost-effectiveness are the goals. Modern interventions like synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are commonly used to boost crop production and keep labor costs down.

Organic: The Winner

You can reduce your exposure to pesticides and synthetic substances in food by choosing organic.

Organic farming tends to show a gentler approach to the land. It stresses sustainability and typically avoids the chemical spillover seen with conventional agriculture [8].

It usually produces less per acre, a critical point in a world with a constantly increasing demand for food.

Your choice impacts personal health and the health of our planet.

How to Use the EWG's Guides to Your Advantage?

The Environmental Working Group, an influential American entity, addresses environmental issues. Established in 1993, the EWG has consistently confronted challenges such as agricultural subsidies, chemical toxins, water pollution, and corporate transparency [9].

How to Use the EWG's Guides to Your Advantage

Put the Dirty Dozen to Good Use

Beyond a simple list, the Dirty Dozen is an eye-opener to pesticide use in farming. 

Why do you think specific items appear on it annually? And how does this affect you? 

The constant appearance of particular produce on the Dirty Dozen list is due to steady farm practices and their natural capacity to absorb pesticides. 

If a certain type of produce often appears on the Dirty Dozen list due to high pesticide absorption and you want to slowly work on reducing your pesticide intake, consider starting your organic journey with the dirty dozen (if you are planning to buy these items) and go from there. 

You can use this knowledge to decide on the organic fruits and vegetables worth buying.

Embrace the Clean 15

Knowing that the 'cleanliness' of the Clean 15 comes from reduced pesticide usage and natural durability can influence your produce purchasing behavior. 

You receive insightful ideas and a clear path for action. So every grocery visit, using this knowledge can result in healthier decisions.

FAQ’s (Dirty Dozen and Clean 15)

What are the clean 15 and dirty dozen?

The Clean 15 features 15 produce items with the least pesticides, opposite to the Dirty Dozen which has the 12 most pesticide-heavy produce items.

What are the 12 dirty dozen foods?

For 2024, the Dirty Dozen includes Avocado, Sweet Peas (frozen), Mushrooms, Sweetcorn, Asparagus, Mangoes, Pineapple, Honeydew Melon, Sweet Potatoes, Onions, Kiwi, Watermelon, Papaya, Cabbage, and Carrots.

Is Mango clean 15?

Yes, mangoes are part of the Clean 15 list.

Are carrots on the clean 15?

Yes, you'll find carrots on the 2024 Clean 15 list.

What to do next?

Learning about EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 will empower you to make choices in the supermarket.

But, what does this really mean for you?

Using the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists is information and how you use it is up to you. They can help protect you from undesirable pesticides and show your support for responsible farming methods.

This promotes a holistic perspective on life, where you focus on health, respect the environment, and make decisions that align with your principles.

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