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Dust a potentially harmful houseguest

No one enjoys the presence of dust in a home. In addition to being an eyesore, excessive dust in a home can make it hard to breathe and could potentially affect human health as well. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead contaminated dust is one of the most common sources of lead poisoning. Typically formed when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded or heated, lead dust, when settled, can re-enter the air when a floor is vacuumed or swept.

As much of a nuisance and health risk as dust can be, it can also be easily remedied. Homeowners hoping to rid their homes of dust can take the following measures.

* Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. A HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, filter improves indoor air quality by removing microscopic contaminants that can cause sickness when breathed in. When vacuuming, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Once or twice a week should be enough.

* Open windows when the weather permits. Chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are commonly found in dust. While there is no proof that PBDEs are harmful, their structural similarity to cancer-causing PCBs is a cause for concern, and some PBDEs are banned in Europe. A Canadian study conducted several years ago found that PBDE flame retardants were present in indoor air at concentrations 50 times higher than those in outdoor air. Opening windows when the weather permits helps diminish those concentrations while reducing dust.

* Remove clutter from the home. A cluttered home is often a dusty home. Homeowners who collect or simply fail to discard items like magazines, newspapers or junk mail are inviting dust. Don't let such items pile up, particularly during the winter months when the windows will be closed and the air inside won't be as fresh.

* Clean bedding once a week. Dust is especially fond of bedding, and unwashed bedding is often a paradise for dust. Wash bedding on a weekly basis, and store any unused bedding, as well as seasonal clothing, in boxes or bags to reduce dust buildup.

* Dust frequently. It might seem like a no-brainer, but frequent dusting is a great way to remove dust. As simple as it sounds, however, many people simply don't dust. When used regularly, feather dusters, floor cleaning systems or even dusting spray can drastically reduce dust buildup. Each approach requires little elbow grease and each is highly effective.