We all want to keep our families safe and healthy, but knowing what's worth worrying about can save your nerves from fraying and help keep you healthier. Here are nine common concerns, how scary they really are, and how best to protect yourself and your family.
Toilets are not as likely to spread infection as you may think. That's because you don't touch a toilet seat and then your mouth or nose without washing your hands. Very few viruses or bacteria can pass through intact skin, so in order to catch something from an inanimate object, you have to spread it to your mouth, nose or eyes. The prevalent myth that sexually transmitted diseases can be picked up from a toilet seat is just not true. Sexually transmitted diseases are acquired by having sex.
If you breathed them constantly, gas vapors and additives would certainly make you sick. The good news is that modern pumps use special nozzles that trap more than 90 percent of vapors during refueling. Still, have someone else pump for you if you're sensitive to fumes, pregnant, or if you won't be able to wash the gas residue off your hands afterward.
Public restrooms are a major source of disease because of the number of dirty fingers touching the doors, sinks and paper-towel dispensers. Your own fingers become contaminated and can make you sick if you touch your mouth or other mucous membrane. The solution is to wash your hands, then open the door with your elbows or use a paper towel to turn the knob.
Hair dye is less dangerous for clients than for stylists, who have the greatest exposure to the chemicals. Still, the use of dark, permanent dyes for more than 25 years has been linked to a higher risk of lymphoma, a kind of blood cancer. To be on the safe side, consider using semi-permanent or henna-based dyes.
Polishing your nails isn't dangerous, but sitting in a nail salon can be. The chemicals in nail polish are volatile—they evaporate into the air, and you breathe them in. Exposure to the three most dangerous chemicals—toluene, formaldehyde and phthalate—has been linked to cancer and birth defects. If you're pregnant or nursing, you probably should keep your nails au naturel. Otherwise, look for a salon with personal ventilation hoods that remove—not recycle—contaminated air. These salons usually advertise their investment, and you're unlikely to smell the solvents when you walk in the door.
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