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Easy Steps to a Healthier Home

  • POTENTIAL DANGER: Nonstick cookware

    The scoop: Pans that let cookies slide off easily and make cleanup a cinch contain perfluorochemicals (or PFCs), which have been shown to cause cancer, hormone disruption, and hypothyroidism in animals. In humans, they've been linked to a decreased ability to fight infection, as well as low birth weight in babies whose mothers were exposed to them during pregnancy. PFCs are found in the linings of fast-food packaging and most microwave-popcorn bags to keep grease from soaking through (as well as in some furniture and carpeting).

    Healthy-home fixes: It's not clear whether humans are at risk from day-to-day exposure, but environmental-health experts recommend these commonsense precautions:

  • Turn down the heat! Don't preheat an empty pan, and keep burners on medium while cooking. "It's when nonstick pans get too hot that they emit potentially dangerous fumes," says pediatrician Alan Greene, M.D., author of Raising Baby Green.

  • Replace flaky, peeling pans when they start to go. Switch to old-fashioned stainless steel or cast iron; or try one of the new PFC-free nonstick pans on the market. (See the best ones here!)

  • Take your takeout out -- of the containers, and serve it on plates.

  • Pop popcorn on the stove, or use an air popper.
  • POTENTIAL DANGER: Pollutants in tap water

    The scoop: Here's something you can worry less about. "Tap water is more regulated than bottled water," says Dr. Paulson. However, it can vary greatly from region to region. An analysis of tap-water data from 19 cities by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), for instance, revealed elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and other hazardous chemicals.

    Healthy-home fixes:

  • Find out what's in your water. Your community water department is required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regularly review the makeup of local water supplies and publish those results. If you don't get a report in the mail once or twice a year, call and ask for one. For a guide to understanding water-safety facts and figures, go to safe-drinking-water.org.

  • Test your own H2O with a simple kit from Everpure ($85; everpure.com). After sending in a sample of your water, you'll receive detailed results, plus the best ways to filter out any impurities that the test turned up.

  • And then, use a filter. "Many contaminants can be removed with a simple activated-carbon one," says Anne Steinemann, director of The Water Center at the University of Washington, in Seattle. These are the relatively inexpensive filters that attach at the faucet or below the sink.

    However, there are some water contaminants (percholate, a by-product of rocket fuel, for example) that may require a reverse-osmosis filter. These under-sink units are expensive and waste some water in order to clean it, but they may be worth it if you live in an area with heavily contaminated H2O. Whatever type of filter you choose, look for one labeled as meeting NSF/ANSI Standard 53, which means that the manufacturer's claims have been verified. You can find a more detailed explanation of water-filter options at waterfiltercomparisons.net.