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Five hidden health dangers around the house

Thursday, May 03, 2012 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: home, health hazards, chemicals

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(NaturalNews) You may already know about toxic cleaning chemicals and flame retardants, but did you know about the five following common household poisons?

1. Air pollutants

"There is absolute proof that air pollution kills people -- and it's ubiquitous," says Sandra Steingraber, author of Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis. "Not only is air pollution linked to asthma and lung cancer, but it may also increase the risk for stroke, heart attack and diabetes."

Short of moving to a place with cleaner air, you may think there's not a lot you can do to reduce your exposure to air pollutants. Yet recent studies have shown that even short-term exposure to two common fuel ingredients may have serious health consequences. Diesel exhaust may increase the risk of lung cancer, asthma, headaches and heart disease, the American Cancer Society warns. And exposure to benzene, a gasoline additive also found in cigarettes, has been linked to an increased risk of leukemia and other blood cancers.

Fortunately, limiting your exposure to these two poisons is relatively straightforward. Avoid areas with heavy bus or truck traffic, and limit the use of gasoline-fueled equipment at home. Instead of gas-powered lawn mowers, for example, use hand-powered tools.

2. Pesticides

"Pesticides used on your lawn and even in your home can cause a wide range of health problems, including birth defects, nerve damage and cancer," says Myron Wentz, co-author of The Healthy Home: Simple Truths to Protect Your Family from Hidden Household Dangers. "In most provinces in Canada, it's illegal to use pesticides for cosmetic purposes, such as keeping weeds out of the yard."

To limit pesticide exposure, home gardeners can learn about ancient, time-tested pest-control techniques such as planting insect-repelling crops, attracting predatory bugs and strategically using non-industrial pesticides such as garlic, mint or baking soda. Incorporating more organic foods into your diet may also reduce your pesticide exposure.

3. Bisphenol-A (BPA)

This industrial, hormone-mimicking chemical has been in the news a lot in recent years, as new research has steadily linked it to everything from birth defects, cancer, heart disease and infertility to impotence, diabetes and mental retardation. It is found in the lining of food and beverage containers, in plastic water bottles, on grocery store receipts and even on cell phone casings.

Research shows that 90 percent of all US residents carry BPA in their bodies, and a recent study found that our daily exposure may be eight times higher than the maximum safe level.

You can limit your BPA exposure by avoiding canned foods (or at least rinsing them before eating) and avoiding the use of plastic food or beverage containers, particularly those that carry the recycling code number seven or the letters "PC." Also, never heat food in plastic.

4. Arsenic

Everyone knows that arsenic is poisonous, but did you know that until 2004 it was often used to treat pine wood in the United States? If you have a wooden deck constructed before that date, be sure to wash your hands after using it. Better yet, replace it entirely.

5. Fluoride

Whether you choose to use fluoride toothpaste or not, fluoride in your drinking water should definitely be avoided. It is impossible to control exposure levels in drinking water, and fluoride is a toxic chemical that can cause tooth discoloration, fractures, thyroid dysfunction and even bone cancer at high enough levels. The US Department of Health and Human Services has already announced plans to lower the maximum recommended exposure levels.

If your drinking water is fluoridated, you can reduce your exposure with a reverse osmosis water filter. Note that the American Dental Association does not recommend fluoride mouthwashes for children under the age of six.

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