Sign up to receive email updates, action alerts & health tips from EWG. [Privacy]

AgMag BLOG

Feeding your mind, saving the planet >>

A “Dirty Dozen” Chemical To Avoid

Monday, August 1, 2011

Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes its ”Dirty Dozen“ list, which ranks the most contaminated fruits and vegetables based on their total load of pesticide residues. The list has helped millions of consumers shop for healthier produce. Its popularity, evidenced by the 835,000 page views this year alone, is proof that consumers want simple ways to avoid dining on toxic chemicals.

The “Dirty Dozen” label doesn’t apply only to produce. According to the World Health Organization, the environmental pollutants known as dioxins have “the dubious distinction of belonging to a similarly named group of chemicals called the Dirty Dozen.” The items in that list, which was compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme, are characterized as “persistent organic pollutants” and have been outlawed by a UN pact.

In July 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a federal safety limit on dioxins, which are highly toxic and carcinogenic byproducts of waste incineration and industrial processes, including smelting, chlorine paper bleaching and pesticide manufacturing. EWG has supported EPA’s efforts to come up with a strict limit but has pointed out that it could be even lower than the agency has proposed. EWG’s research shows the amount of dioxin a nursing infant ingests daily is up to 77 times higher than EPA’s proposed safety limit.

EWG’s newly released 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health notes that 95 percent of human exposure to dioxin comes from the fat in meat, dairy and fish. Studies suggest that exposure can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a higher risk of cancer.

“When you are consuming foods with toxins, you are giving the body something that is very complicated, and as a result is going to have it working less efficiently,” says Ashley Koff, Los Angeles-based celebrity dietician and author.

Koff stopped by EWG’s Washington, D.C. headquarters recently to do a video interview on her own tips to help consumers improve their food choices.

Click here to find out what else she had to say: Celebrity Dietitian and Author Ashley Koff on EWG’s Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health.

What can consumers do to reduce their exposure to dioxin? EWG recommends eating less meat and dairy products, giving up red and processed meats for grass-fed and pasture-raised meats and choosing organic, low-fat cheeses. There’s a whole host of recommendations in EWG’s Meat Eater’s guide designed to improve your health and the environment.

“The goal is to really make this information accessible to consumers,” Kari Hamerschlag, author of the report, told The Huffington Post. “On the health side, we really pulled together all of the information and tried to make it as clear as possible that there’s not just one reason to limit meat consumption; there is a whole host of reasons.”

Read more about how eating too much meat can affect your health.

Next weekend, Koff will take her healthy-eating message to New York City, where she’ll encourage consumers to cut back on meat and help decide which local chef makes the best grilled vegetarian salad during the Healthy Living Cook-Off.

Koff has joined a growing list of celebrities from Mario Batali to Michael Pollan and thousands of EWG supporters who have praised the guide and taken the pledge to go meatless on Mondays.

Mario Batali and Environmental Working Group Promote Meatless Mondays.

As Chef Batali put it, “What I love about this campaign is that you don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat healthier. That’s not realistic for everyone, but you can make a lasting impact on your health and on our planet by making even small changes to your diet.”

Those small changes can be as simple as trimming the fat off your steak to eating more nutrient-rich lentils and beans.