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If your sleep isn't the greatest, cherchez les sheets. Some types of bedsheets have a finish that releases formaldehyde, which can irritate the throat and eyes.
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updated 7/28/2011 9:47:56 AM ET 2011-07-28T13:47:56

In your bedroom

"If people would buy different sheets, they might not need sleeping pills," says consumer advocate Debra Lynn Dadd, author of "Toxic Free." Polyester-cotton blends and permanent press linens have a finish that releases formaldehyde, which can irritate the throat and eyes—not helpful for peaceful sleep. Use untreated cotton sheets; avoid wrinkles by taking them out of the dryer right away.

In your living room

Pressed-wood products are another source of formaldehyde, which Laura Beane Freeman, Ph.D., investigator with the National Cancer Institute, has linked to myeloid leukemia in factory workers. Let pieces air out in a room with doors shut and windows open, suggests Tom Lent, policy director at the Healthy Building Network in Washington, D.C. Or shop for used pieces—they've already aired out.

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In your garden

Before dousing your lawn with chemicals, try TLC: Water with a soaking hose, add weed-inhibiting mulch to garden beds, and set the mower for 3 inches (as longer grass shades and stifles weeds). Got a weed you can't stand? Try herbicides made with corn gluten meal or vinegar.

At the market

You can consume nearly 80 percent fewer pesticides by eating organicversions of the 12 most contaminated items, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) concludes. The worst produce is apples, followed by celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce and kale.

On your table

Some fast food wrappers and bags, pizza boxes and microwave popcornbags contain oil- and water-repelling chemicals that transfer to and metabolize in the body, forming likely carcinogens, says Jessica D'eon, Ph.D., a researcher in the department of chemistry at the University of Toronto. The EPA is working to eliminate the chemicals by 2015; until then, they're yet another reason to cut back on grease bombs.

In your closet

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The dry-cleaning fluid perchloroethylene (PERC) can cause headaches and liver and kidney damage. "And a newer method swaps out PERC for D-5, which caused uterine cancer in lab animals," Dr. Solomon says. "Wet cleaning" or carbon dioxide methods are ideal. If you dry-clean, keep clothes bagged while driving home so you don't pollute your car, then toss bags and air clothes outside or in an apartment stairwell for an hour.

In your jewelry box

In tests of costume jewelry with metal, most from China, 19 percent contained the carcinogen cadmium, reports Jeff Weidenhamer, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at Ashland University. "Small exposures to cadmium can add up and cause kidney and bone damage," he says. Buy locally made bling, and ask artisans where they get materials.

Around your home

Your Swiffer isn't organic, but it can reduce toxins. "Chemicals can piggyback on dust," Dadd explains. Women whose breast milk contained the fire retardant Deca, which animal studies link to problems with memory and attention, also had Deca in their vacuum-bag dust, EWG found. Dust surfaces and floors weekly, take off your shoes and wipe pets' paws at the door (so no one tracks in chemicals), and change filters in your central-air system at least once a year. Then breathe easy.

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