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Healthy Habits: Breathe Clean Air

Associated Health Problems
Polluted air has been associated with a number of health problems, including:

lung cancer headaches
cardiovascular disease cramps
leukemia irritation of eyes, ears, nose,
nausea throat, lungs, and sinuses
dizziness fatigue
skin rashes drowsiness
persistent cough insomnia
joint and muscle pain mental confusion
incoherent speech memory loss
depression sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

How to Breathe Clean Air
The question is, what can you do as an individual to take control of your environment and help ensure the quality of the air you breathe? When it comes to outdoor air, that's difficult. So much is beyond your individual control. There are a few things you can do to make sure that you're not adding to outdoor pollution – things like keeping your car well tuned and effectively burning fuel, driving less, switching your fireplace from wood to gas. If you exercise outdoors, you can decide to do so in the early morning, when the air is clearest and the cars have not begun to pile up pollutants in the neighborhood. You could also pick up your belongings and move away from the city or the industry or the "whatever" that's nearby adding pollutants to your air.

There is another area in which you can extend more personal control over the air you breathe, and that is in your home. As was mentioned earlier, one of the biggest problems of the 1990s is indoor air pollution. Already 63,000 different chemicals are found in homes across the nation in various manufactured products. Every day 1,000 new ones are invented.12 Since the average American spends 90 percent of his or her time indoors, and much of that is at home, your dwelling represents a very important place to begin to make some changes. Here are just a few simple ones to get you started on your road toward breathing cleaner and easier in the most important of places, your home.

Keep Your Dwelling Well Ventilated
Airtight living spaces are great for conserving energy in the winter months, but they provide an environment in which pollutants accumulate. Crack a window or a door each day and let in fresh air. If you own your own home, you might consider installing a system called a heat-recovery ventilator, also known as an air-to-air heat exchanger. It draws outdoor air into the house and recovers the heat from the indoor air before exhausting it to the outside.13 But for most of us, the most cost-effective thing we can do is simply air out the house once a day.

Bedrooms are especially important areas of the home to keep well ventilated. We spend about one-third of our lives in them. It is suggested that they be aired out each day, and that a window be cracked at night, even in the coldest of climes.

Use Nontoxic Household Cleaning Products
A gallon of water mixed with 1/4 cup of white vinegar and a teaspoon of baking soda makes a good all-purpose cleaner. If it's windows you're doing, just leave out the baking soda (1/4 cup white vinegar + one quart water). If you're scouring the sink, leave out the vinegar and add more baking soda to make a paste. If it's the sink drain that needs some attention, try unclogging it with a mixture of 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar, and boiling water.

Check at your local natural-foods store for additional safe household products. Some supermarkets are now carrying lines of products that are more environmentally safe, as well. Look for products that are "biodegradable" and free of phosphates, petroleum, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, benzene, and chlorine.

For a host of other ideas on how to buy or make your own nontoxic household cleaners, pick up one of the books listed below.

Keep Your Furnace, Humidifier, and Air Conditioner Clean
Whatever sorts of mechanisms you have in your house that impact the quality of your air should be regularly serviced and cleaned, and the filters should be changed. Check into having your air ducts professionally cleaned, as well.


From HEALTHY HABITS: 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health by David J. Frahm as used by arrangement with Jeremy P. Tarcher, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003 by David and Anne Frahm. All rights reserved.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

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