As we stressed in our last post, testing your home for environmental toxins — lead, mold, radon, asbestos — is vital, especially if your family consists of young children or pregnant women. Hidden dangers are lurking just about everywhere. In addition to testing, you can keep your family healthy and your home safe by following these suggestions from the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

  • Energy-efficient heating equipment lowers your monthly energy bills and, if properly sized and maintained, reduces air pollution. Be sure all ducts are tightly sealed, which experts say can lower your bills by as much as 20 percent. Be wary of any equipment older than 15 years. It might need to be replaced.
  •  Organic fruits and vegetables minimize exposure to pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, consider buying organics from following list of the most pesticide-saturated fruits and veggies, known as the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens. And whether it’s organic or conventional, wash all produce well before eating to reduce risk of infection.
  • Find a new home for your old electronics – computers, television, cell phones, e-readers, etc. E-cycling reduces waste and helps manage toxic chemicals. Check your state’s environmental agency for information on where to recycle old equipment.
  • Many eat fish for health reasons, but beware: Big fish, such as shark and swordfish, often contain contaminants, including metals, industrial chemicals and pesticides. Safer options include tilapia, mussels, clams and shrimp.
  • Phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) are potentially harmful chemicals in plastics that can leak out and into our children’s bodies, negatively impacting brain development and reproduction. Choose plastics No. 1, 2, 4, and 5 for drinkware and containers. In addition, never heat plastic, especially in the microwave; wash plastic in the dishwasher; or pour warm liquids into plastic containers.
  • Water often contains lead, especially if plumbing is older than 10 years old. Test your pipes for lead. Also, run your water for a few minutes every morning or whenever it hasn’t been used for a while, and use cold water for cooking.
  • Smoking is the most common cause of indoor air pollution. Plus, secondhand smoke can cause asthma attacks, respiratory problems, and possibly cancer. So if you must smoke – and we hope you’ll consider stopping – smoke outside away from doors, windows, and vents.

We live in a world laden with pollutants, but these steps can help you keep your home pollutant-free.