Keep your indoor air clean, too

Pollution isn't just an outdoor issue.

According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside homes, offices and other buildings can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside, with pollutants such as lead, radon and chemicals from cleaning products.

Here are some tips to help your family breathe easier indoors:

* As much as possible, keep pollutants outside.

Wiping your feet on a sturdy door mat or removing shoes before going inside can keep lead paint particles and other contaminants out.

* Clean naturally.

Many household cleansers — the kind you keep in cabinets secured with child-proof locks — contain toxic chemicals. Products such as vinegar, baking soda, club soda and tea tree oil can clean without the risks. Recipes for homemade, nontoxic cleaning products can be found at green-cleaning.

* Reduce your risk of lead exposure.

Homes built as recently as 1978 may contain lead paint on window frames, walls and other surfaces. Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. Clean up peeling or chipping paint immediately. Keep play areas clean. Wash children's hands often, especially before meals, naptime and bedtime.

* Watch for carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless but harmful gas, and levels can rise quickly without anyone noticing. Install a carbon monoxide detector near sleeping rooms. Also, have fuel-burning appliances inspected by a qualified technician once a year.

* Test for radon.

Radon is another harmful, invisible gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock and can only be detected through testing. Do-it-yourself test kits, available at most hardware stores, are inexpensive and easy.

* Opt for "low-VOC" paints.

Many paints release trace amounts of volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde, for months after application. When starting a home improvement project, consider low-VOC or no-VOC brands of paints, varnishes and waxes.

* Don't smoke inside.

Secondhand smoke is harmful to children and adults, especially those with lung and cardiovascular diseases. Always ask smokers to take it outside.

* Vent well, vent often.

Ventilating a bathroom after a hot shower prevents mildew and mold. Properly ventilating stoves, especially gas stoves, can reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide and decrease the risk of asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

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