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The Dirty Dozen: Where Organic Matters

September 5, 2014

By Jessica Vician

The Dirty Dozen: Where Organic Matters | An image with a barn, windmill, silo, and text reading "organic farm"

The Dirty Dozen. The Clean 15. They sound like the villains and superheroes of a summer blockbuster. But they’re much less dramatic—they’re fruits and vegetables.

Sometimes it seems there are only two types of grocery shoppers out there: those who surrender their paychecks to everything organic and those who rant about what a waste of money it is. As usual, the truth lies exactly in the middle.

A big reason health-conscious people flock to organic produce is because it contains significantly less pesticide residue. According to the EPA, pesticides—even those previously deemed safe—can harm the nervous and endocrine systems, irritate your skin, and contribute to causing cancer. Children are especially susceptible to these side effects.

We all want to protect ourselves and our families from these horrible side effects, but what if we can’t afford to shop exclusively organic? That’s where these superheroes and villains come in.

The Dirty Dozen is a clever name for a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide residue on them—which means these are the 12 produce items you want to “splurge” for organic. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 report, here are your organic musts:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Imported nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Potatoes
  12. Imported snap peas

If you’re looking at this list thinking, “What produce is left to save money on?” don’t fret. There’s a larger list of the Clean 15, which is EWG’s list of the produce with the least amount of pesticides. In other words, you can save your money on these fruits and vegetables and buy the non-organic versions.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen sweet peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potatoes

As you can see, in the battle of purchasing organic versus non-organic, the Dirty Dozen are the villains you can defeat by spending a little extra money on organic, and the Clean 15 are the superheroes who don’t need your money (and don’t need to be organic).

Bon appetit!

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Early Intervention: Part I

September 3, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Early Intervention: Part I | A young boy reaches for help in standing up as he crawls on the ground.

At our son’s fifteen-month check-up, the pediatrician asked my husband and me a series of questions about our son’s development: Is he walking? Check. Can he stack two blocks? Check. Does he respond when you call his name? Check. Does he have a vocabulary of at least several words, including “mama” and “dada?” Umm . . . no. Our son babbled incessantly, but my husband and I realized that we couldn’t really recognize anything he said as actual words.

While there is a wide range of what is considered “normal” in terms of speech development, our pediatrician suggested that we have our son evaluated to see if he’d qualify for speech therapy through our state’s early intervention program. Since many private insurance plans do not cover habilitative therapy, or therapy that helps a person learn skills that are not developing normally, the early intervention program can help families get affordable services.

What Is Early Intervention?
Early intervention (EI) is a system of services that helps infants and toddlers who have developmental delays or disabilities. Developmental delays include the following areas:

  • cognitive development (thinking)
  • physical development (crawling, walking)
  • communication development (talking, listening)
  • social or emotional development (playing, feeling secure)
  • adaptive development (eating, dressing)

Services are provided to a qualifying child to match his or her developmental need. These might include speech therapy, physical therapy, hearing services, or nutrition services.

Every U.S. state and territory is required by law (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to have an early intervention program, though the specific rules and regulations can vary from state to state.

How Does My Child Qualify?
If you suspect your child has a developmental delay, either talk with your pediatrician to get a referral or locate your state’s early intervention website to find an EI office in your area. Once you’ve located your local office, you can call to request a free evaluation for your child.

While the qualification process may vary slightly from state to state, our experience with the Illinois Early Intervention Program is probably typical for most state programs: After playing a bit of phone tag with my local EI office, my husband and I were assigned a service coordinator who guided us through the evaluation process. She first met with us for an intake visit at our home to fill out a bunch of paperwork and to find out more about our son’s medical and developmental history. Then she put us in contact with a speech therapist and an occupational therapist who came to our home two weeks later for our son’s official evaluation. The two therapists asked us a series of questions and observed our son as he performed different tasks related to the different areas of development (outlined in the bulleted list above).

In the state of Illinois, a child with a delay of 30 percent or more in any developmental area qualifies for EI services. (Qualification criteria vary from state to state. For more information on your state, visit this National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center website.) Our son showed a 33 percent delay in expressive speech, so my husband and I have opted to enroll him in a speech therapy program.

Next month I will write more about our experiences with the EI program as our son begins his weekly speech therapy sessions.



Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.

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Happy Labor Day!

September 1, 2014
Happy Labor Day!
Tags :  holiday
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