Many of you have probably seen pictures and read about the extreme flooding we have had
in Vermont. No one would have seen this coming as it was the 'perfect storm' of weather
events that brought 24 hours of unpredictable heavy, rains. Acting like a funnel, the waters
rolling off the mountain tops and into the stream beds as they plunged to the bottoms of
river valleys, was so intense that it overflowed the stream beds even before it reached the
valley floors. The damage caused by the force, was catastrophic as roads and bridges were
wiped out, houses washed downstream, and river bottom lands were filled with mud and
sand from the rivers and debris picked up along the way, depositing it in the most unlikely
places. As the waters receded, debris was left in the middle of fields, some covered with foot
thick silt and mud. Huge trees washed out of river banks were deposited in jumbled piles like
toothpicks just waiting to plug up the rivers the next time the heavy rains come. It will take a
year or more to clean up the damage.
So needless to say, this month has been a challenge to accomplish daily errands and needs.
We are also all trying to help our neighbors, shovel mud out of houses and businesses. But it
also reminds me, as we work with our farmers and agricultural folks; that there are other
hazards to which we need to be aware. As an herbalist, a catastrophic event like this can
cause even wild harvested plant materials to become unavailable.
I have had a chance to observe and evaluate what such extremes in the weather can leave
behind or remove from our herbal landscape. For example, certain wildcrafted herbs were
'here today and gone tomorrow'; so that those things that we planned to harvest at the
perfect stage of ripeness, were gone before we got to them. Others were buried in
overflowing waters, only to show their 'faces again'; as they receded. Only trouble with that is the amount of toxic waste products that accumulated in the waters along the way that made
picking unacceptable. It takes 6 weeks for pastureland to be acceptable for grazing organic
animals. It reminds me that we need to save more than we need in one season, to navigate
We will have to go to higher grounds to obtain some of the herbals that we need for
medicines and first aid or purchase from reputable sources. Thankfully we have a number of
great sources in Vermont for growers and retailers alike; but it may cause increases in costs
to produce the items we want to have on hand.
As far as the organic vegetable supply, we have many farms that were high enough to avoid
contamination. Others were not so fortunate and will have to wait till next year for most of
the products affected by contamination or lost entirely.
As catastrophic weather events begin to become more common, I am seriously considering
some kind of covers for raised beds or even investment in a greenhouse, where I can bring
my wild and cultivated herbals under cover. With threats of toxic air quality, heavy
downpours, hail, wind and flooding; I will be considering the best options to control to some
extent, the management of immediate growing environments.
More on this at a later date, as I do some research. Meantime, back to helping my
The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15
For all of you who love to read our newsletters and gain practical information, I will leave you
with the most recent report of the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen from the Environmental
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization dedicated to
protecting human health and the environment, publishes an annual list known as
the “Dirty Dozen” or “Dirty Dozen and Clean 15”. This list highlights the 12 fruits
and vegetables that contain the highest concentrations of pesticides. Today, we
delve into the 2023 edition of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.
What is the Dirty Dozen?
Similarly, the Dirty Dozen is a list published annually by the EWG, which ranks the
12 fruits and vegetables most contaminated by pesticides. This ranking is based
on tests conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food
and Drug Administration. It is important to note that the produce is tested for
pesticide residues after they have been washed or peeled, mimicking what
consumers might do at home.
Why is the Dirty Dozen Important?
Pesticide exposure has been linked to various health problems, including
neurodevelopmental issues in children, hormone disruption, and even certain
types of cancer. The Dirty Dozen list raises consumer awareness about
pesticide contamination and helps individuals decide whether to buy
conventional or organic produce. Likewise, the potential benefits of choosing
organic for the listed items include reduced pesticide exposure, which might
specifically benefit children, pregnant women, and individuals with compromised
The Rising Concern: Health Implications of Pesticides and Herbicides
As pesticides and herbicides have escalated in conventional agriculture, there is
growing concern about the potential harm these chemicals can inflict on human
health. These compounds, developed to control pests and promote crop yield,
often leave residues that persist in our food supply, environment, and, ultimately,
Research strongly indicates a link between exposure to these chemicals and
various health issues. Additionally, neurologically, even low-level exposure to
certain pesticides has been associated with developmental delays in children,
reduced cognitive function, and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases
like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Some pesticides, such as organophosphates,
disrupt nerve signal transmission, and this mechanism can also adversely affect
human neurological function.
Endocrine disruption is another significant health risk linked to pesticide and
herbicide exposure. In addition to the health risks, pesticide exposure can also
have environmental consequences, such as water pollution and the destruction
Furthermore, several pesticides and herbicides have been classified as potential
carcinogens by agencies like the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Additionally, chronic exposure has been associated with an increased risk of
several types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and various
Moreover, the incidence of many of these health conditions has risen over recent
decades, paralleling the increase in pesticide and herbicide use. At the same
time, correlation does not prove causation, the relationship warrants further,
rigorous investigation. Meanwhile, the rise of regenerative and organic
agriculture offers a way forward, reducing our reliance on these potentially
harmful chemicals and fostering a healthier, more sustainable food system.
The Dirty Dozen list for 2023, in order of highest pesticide contamination,
Kale, collard & mustard greens
Bell & Hot Peppers
Each fruit or vegetable made the list due to its high levels of pesticide residues.
For instance, strawberries typically have the highest concentration of pesticides,
with some samples showing residues of 20 different pesticides. Furthermore,
spinach samples have shown relatively high concentrations of permethrin, a
Tips for Consumers
Consumers should consider buying organic versions when purchasing these
fruits and vegetables, particularly for those highest on the list. Washing produce
can reduce but not entirely eliminate pesticide residues. Peeling may also help;
however, valuable nutrients often accompany the skin.
Understanding Clean Fifteen
In addition to the Dirty Dozen, the EWG also publishes the Clean Fifteen, a list of
fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residues. This list includes produce
Sweet peas (frozen)
It’s encouraging to know that when buying these items, consumers can feel less
concerned about pesticide exposure, even when buying non-organic versions. It’s
worth noting, however, that a small amount of sweet corn, papaya, and summer
squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds.
Therefore, if you wish to avoid genetically modified produce, buying organic
varieties of these crops is recommended!
The Dirty Dozen list is a valuable tool that consumers can use to reduce their
pesticide exposure. Furthermore, by being aware of the fruits and vegetables
with the highest pesticide residues, individuals can make more informed
decisions about which types of products to buy organic.
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Available at: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/ (Accessed 10 July 2023).
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Available at: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/ (Accessed 10 July 2023).
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controlled trial. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 28, 31-37.
12. Cimino, A. M., et al. (2017). Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticide Exposure on Human Health: A Systematic Review.
Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(2), 155–162.
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14. Lu, C., et al. (2008). Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides.
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Over 40 years of Herbal and nutritional experience.