Started avoiding dangerous pesticides by eating organic? If fear is a big motivator pushing you towards a greener lifestyle, here’s how you can avoid the secret dangers of everyday things that lurk in your kitchen or the fast-food drive-thru window:

1. Ban the can. Already got a reusable water bottle free of bisphenol A — aka BPA, a chemical lining linked to everything from sexual dysfunction to heart disease to reproductive problems? Then you’ll want to avoid canned foods — since almost all cans are lined with BPA.

2. Don’t nuke plastics. Even plastic containers labeled “microwave safe” have been shown to leach chemicals, so stick to glass and ceramic containers when using the microwave.

3. Avoid Teflon. Teflon offgases toxic particulates — including carcinogens and two global pollutants — at high temperatures. In fact, Dupont — maker of Teflon — has  agreed to pay a $10.25 million settlement to the EPA and to virtually eliminate perfluorinated chemicals — aka PFOA, or the stuff used to make Teflon — but not until 2015. For now, it’s up to you to eliminate Teflon from your kitchen.

4. Nix the wrappers. Guess what — PFOAs are found in fast-food wrappers, too, from pizza boxes to burger wrappers to popcorn bags. Cook more to avoid these disposable, potentially cancer-causing food encasers, and you’ll create less waste too.

5. Know your syrup. Think high fructose corn syrup gets a bad rap, considering it’s not all that much worse, health-wise, than sugar? Well, aside from unnecessarily sweetening up pretty much every kind of food you can think of on the cheap, a lot of high fructose corn syrup is tainted with mercury.

6. De-process. Do partially hydrogenated soybean oil and corn syrup solids make you drool — especially when packed together with imitation mozzarella cheese and artificial butter flavor — and spiked with distilled monoglycerides and L-Cysteine hydrochloride? You’ve eaten all that — if you’ve nibbled on Hot Pockets. Get frightened into eating better by reading ingredient lists.

7. Eat not ammonia. If you’ve watched Food, Inc., you know that a lot of factory farmed beef gets treated with ammonia in an effort to kill the E.coli that gets into the meat. Unfortunately, this ammonia treatment isn’t actually all that great at getting rid of E.coli. So stop eating factory farmed beef.

8. Drink not bad milk. If you’ve seen The Corporation, you know that many cows get treated with rBGH to produce more milk — milk with pus and blood swirled in, since rBGH causes udder infections and other illnesses. Plus, the hormone is linked to birth defects in cows — and even worse, facts about the hormone’s effect on human health have often been suppressed and massaged. Avoid these risks by opting for organic and local milk — whether from cows or beans or grains.

9. Say no to drugs. Thoughts of putrid meat and pus milk making you feel ill? Then you can understand why the factory farmed cows and other animals used to make these products often are ill, literally. Yet instead of improving living conditions for these animals so they get better (or don’t get sick in the first place), big ag companies pump future food full of antibiotics — a practice that’s helping create new, superbugs resistant to antibiotics. For your own health, only eat meat you know to be free of antibiotics.

I actually tend not to be motivated by fear — especially long, daunting lists of fears. In fact, I fear that long lists like these can make people give up on eating better or living greener and head over to their nearest chain fast-food joint to eat burgers tainted with ammonia, hormones and antibiotics — doused with mercury-tainted high fructose corn syrup-sweetened ketchup — all handily encased in a carcinogenic wrapper.

Which is to say: If you’re about to declare pollution nihilism, take a deep breath and simply go towards what you do want to eat instead of worrying about what you shouldn’t. The list of chemicals and scary stuff above is frightening — but most can be avoided simply by supporting your local farmers markets, community supported agriculture programs, and nearby health co-ops.

Of course, if the list above makes you feel empowered to take actions to improve your health, by all means, make use of the list. In fact, you may want to read a whole book that’s kind of scary but empowering for environmental health advocates: Slow Death By Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. Eat well this spring!

MNN homepage photo: Juanmonino/iStockphoto

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