Avoiding or limiting exposure to toxic chemicals is at the top of every
parent’s list. “Toxic chemicals are everywhere, so exposure is really difficult
to avoid," says Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior researcher with Environmental
Working Group, a nonprofit organization that researches environmental issues.
"But there are things people can do to be proactive."
Among the key toxins are lead and
pesticides. Studies have linked overexposure to lead and pesticides with
brain and central nervous system damage, behavior problems, asthma, cancer, and
So how can you cut down your exposure to these chemicals and other potential
household risks? Here are the top 10 suggestions from WebMD's experts. (And in
some cases, you'll even save money!)
1. Get house dust under control.
House dust aggravates allergies. It also contains more hazardous chemicals
than you might think, including lead, fire retardants, pesticides, and other
"It's nothing you can afford to take lightly," Lunder tells WebMD. "Even if
these chemicals were used decades earlier in your home, they can still
accumulate in your house dust today."
The solutions: The best -- and most expensive -- option is to replace
wall-to-wall carpeting (a collector for dust and allergens) with wood, cork,
tile, or non-vinyl linoleum. But if that’s not economically feasible, some
old-fashioned elbow grease can help. Vacuum frequently -- meticulously getting
into corners, along the floorboards, and moving furniture to get those dust
Make sure your vacuum has strong suction and a HEPA filter so that dust and
dirt go into the bag.
Vacuum at least two times each week.
Clean the vacuum bag and filter every time, so dust isn't spewed back into
2. Kick nicotine addiction.
If you're still a smoker, it's time to kick it.
An estimated 40% of America's children are exposed to secondhand smoke at
home -- and it's the biggest trigger of asthma in those children, says Philip
Landrigan, MD, director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount
Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
And it’s an expensive habit. "You can save a lot of money if you're not
smoking, not to speak of future health costs for you and your family," he tells
A doctor, nurse, or mental health professional can help you tailor an
approach to quitting smoking that best suits your needs. Set a quit date and
stick to it.
3. Get your home tested.
Both lead paint and radon are serious hazards you can't afford to ignore.
Lead poisoning is known to cause brain damage in a developing fetus and in
young children if not treated. Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas.