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Top 10 Toxins and How to Protect Your Family

What can you do to protect your family from everyday toxins? Plenty, writes USA TODAY health reporter Liz Szabo, in Fresh: Women's Health Guide, a new USA TODAY publication that hits newsstands today. (I've also contributed a feature for Fresh on how to "Be Cheap, Be Green.)

Here's Szabo's list of the toxic 10, in no particular order, with ideas for avoiding them.

Lead -- potent neurotoxin that can cause brain damage, even in low doses.

Although it was taken out of gasoline three decades ago, it's still found in many homes, especially those built before 1978....When renovating an older home, use only contractors who are trained in lead-safe work practices. If you do the work yourself, consider taking a one-day class in lead safety.

Phthalates -- these chemicals, often used to soften plastics, can interfere with the hormone system.

When possible, choose products labeled as phthalate-free or PVC-free. Some hospitals are switching to phthalate-free products, especially in their neonatal intensive care units. Avoid bottles marked with the #3 recycling code.

Tobacco -- Its smoke can contain up to 4,0000 chemicals, including cadmium, lead and formaldehyde.

Don't smoke or allow anyone to smoke near your family.

Pesticides - poisons intended to kill weeds, fungi, insects and small animals.

Wash your produce...Don't use insect sprays in the home or on your pets. Take off your shoes when entering the home to avoid tracking in pesticides...When possible, buy food that is organic or locally grown, because the U.S. has stricter pesticide laws than many other regions.

Mercury -- potent neurotoxin.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pregnant women and children should completely avoid high-mercury fish: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

Radon -- a naturally-occurring, radioactive gas that's the second-leading cause of lung cancer (behind tobacco.)

Test your home for radon or have an inspection by a radon specialist. Professionals can seal a home's foundation, if needed.

Cadmium - heavy metal linked to cancer, kidney damage and bone damage.

Check product recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has recalled thousands of pieces of cadmium-tainted products. The commission's chairman, Inis Tenenbaum, advises parents to think carefully before buying low-cost children's jewelry.

Arsenic -- common wood preservative that was banned from playgrounds in 2004 but can be found at older ones as well as on fences and decks.

Leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking it in and wash your hands frequently.

Volatile organic compounds - chemical fumes produced by paints , solvents or cleaning products that are linked to health problems such as asthma.

Open the windows at least once a day, when possible...Choose low-VOC paints. Reduce use of chemical cleaning products in favor of homemade, green cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda.

Bisphenol A - estrogen-like ingredient often found in clean, hard plastics, the lining of metal cans and slippery paper receipts. It's associated in animal studies with genital birth abnormalities and breast cancer.

Choose BPA-free products. Instead of liquid formula, use powdered formula, whose can't aren't lined with BPA, according to the Environmental Working Group. Choose fresh produce or dried beans, rather than canned.

To view this article, visit http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/09/top-10-toxins-and-how-to-protect-your-family/1.