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Breathe Easy: 5 Ways To Improve Indoor Air Quality

5 Simple Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality continued...

If you live in a home built before 1978, there's a good chance that lead paint still exists on your walls. But even in a newer home, you may face lead exposure -- from lead dust tracked in from outside. Lead dust can raise the risk of exposure for young children -- a serious problem that can damage the brain, central nervous system, and kidneys. Pesticides are also linked with brain damage in young children. Kids are vulnerable to higher exposures because they tend to get dust on their fingers and then put their fingers in their mouths.

To best protect your family, ask people to remove their shoes when entering your home. Keep house shoes, slippers, and socks near the door.  

2. Keep a healthy level of humidity. Dust mites and mold love moisture. Keeping humidity around 30%-50% helps keep them and other allergens under control. A dehumidifier (and air conditioner during summer months) helps reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively controls allergens, Lang says. An air conditioner also reduces indoor pollen count -- another plus for allergy-sufferers. 

More tips for dehumidifying your home: 

  • Use an exhaust fan or crack open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing.
  • Don't overwater houseplants.
  • Vent the clothes dryer to the outside.
  • Fix leaky plumbing to prevent moisture-loving mold.
  • Empty drip pans in your window air conditioner and dehumidifier.

3. Make your home a no-smoking zone. "Probably the single most important aspect of indoor air pollution is secondhand cigarette smoke," says Philip Landrigan, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Research shows that secondhand smoke increases a child's risk of developing ear and respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For the smoker, this addiction causes cancer, breathing problems, heart attacks, and stroke.

If you want to stop smoking, support groups, nicotine-replacement therapy, and other medications can help. Find a method that works for you, get some support (friends, family, fellow quitters, counseling), and think positive. Focus on your reasons for quitting -- not on your cravings.

More Americans than ever before have kicked the habit, according to the CDC. But if you relapse, make sure you don’t smoke inside the house. "If you just can't quit, at least smoke outside," Landrigan says.

4. Test for radon.  Whether you have a new or old home, you could have a radon problem. This colorless, odorless gas significantly raises the risk of lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. 

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