10 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Safer and Healthier
6. Filter your tap water.
Filtered tap water may be a better choice of drinking water than bottled water. In a recent study, the Environmental Working Group tested 10 best-selling brands of bottled water. Researchers found mixtures of 38 contaminants, including bacteria, fertilizer, and industrial chemicals -- all at levels similar to those found in tap water.
Here's the catch: Tap water is regulated by the EPA, which requires yearly public reports identifying the contaminants found in local water sources. But bottled water is regulated by the FDA, which has no such requirement.
"But even if you live in a place where drinking water is considered good, there can still be trace amounts of chemicals that may be toxic," says Baker. Although your local water company filters tap water, it still comes through with contaminants -- including lead, chlorine, E. coli, pesticides. Simply filtering your tap water can remove lots of these pollutants.
A simple pitcher-type water filter may be all you need for very drinkable water, Baker advises. There are also filters that attach to a faucet or to the plumbing system. Consumer Reports has published a review of 27 water filters.
Filtering your tap water "is an easy thing to do -- you don't have to invest a lot of money in it," she says. "You just change the filters regularly. It's a 'better safe than sorry' approach." You’ll also cut down on waste in landfills by not buying – and then tossing – plastic bottles.
7. Temper the Teflon.
If you've got pots and pans with Teflon coating -- or other nonstick cookware – make sure you use them wisely. Perfluorinated (PFCs) chemicals are used to make these nonstick coatings, and the chemicals can accumulate in the body. The EPA lists PFOA (one type of PFCs used in Teflon) as a "likely human carcinogen," although there’s no evidence that Teflon-coated pans cause cancer.
DuPont and other companies have agreed, in response to government pressure, to eliminate use of PFOA by 2015. In the meantime, you can switch to other cookware now: stainless steel, anodized aluminum, copper-coated pans, cast iron, or enamel-coated iron. Silicone baking molds are also safe to use.