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Clean Indoor Air

While you might take the air you breathe for granted, it is a golden opportunity to go greener. In fact, taking clean air action is a must when you're improving your home to improve your health.

Go green -- literally. Placing houseplants around your home is just about as green as it gets when you're going green.

"Potted plants take in toxins and give out oxygen, which is a natural way to purify the air you breathe," says Toni Bark, MD, a medical consultant and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-accredited professional at the Center for Disease Prevention and Reversal in Evanston, Ill. According to research funded by NASA, plants like the butterfly palm, rubber plant, and philodendron strip toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide out of the air. Water your plants frequently and breathe easy.

Smoke out. Gas stoves and the fumes they release, especially when frying meat, are hotbeds of toxins.

"Gas fumes from gas-powered stoves may cause dizziness, nausea, depression, muscle aches, allergies and asthma, and a host of other symptoms that you might experience every day without understanding the cause," Rea says. Throw a slab of meat on a gas stove, he says, and the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other potentially harmful, cancer-causing substances in the air go up in smoke around you.

Simple solution? Make sure the venting over your stove is installed so it draws smoke outside instead of in, and always turn it on when cooking.

Kick the habit. You can properly vent your stove and install all the air filters you want, but if someone inside your home is smoking, environmental health experts say those efforts are a complete waste of time.

"Hands down, the biggest contributor to poor indoor air quality is cigarette smoke," Zeldin says. "Any changes you make to try to improve air quality in your home are trivial if you don't quit smoking."

Secondhand smoke is a known carcinogen, containing nicotine and toxic chemicals, according to the National Cancer Institute. Even thirdhand smoke -- residue from tobacco smoke that clings to furniture, clothes, rugs, and walls -- can affect your health.

Researchers from the University of California recently found that thirdhand smoke can hang around your house for months, mixing with common pollutants to form carcinogens and tiny particles that hurt your health. One in five U.S. adults still smokes, Zeldin says. If you're among them, start lighting up outside for the health of your housemates. Better yet, quit altogether.

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