Q. What chemicals in the environment have a real impact upon our health?

There are way too many to cover. Here are a few important ones:

Lead: Paint chips, dust, fumes and water containing lead can get into your body. Even small amounts of lead in your system can impede learning and generate behavior changes. Large quantities of lead can be fatal. A simple blood test can alert you before lead poisoning causes significant problems.

Mercury: Mercury is a poisonous metal that can get into your body from eating contaminated fish. This silvery metal can build up in the body and cause health problems.

Fluoride: Almost half of all Americans drink water that is either naturally fluoridated or treated with fluorides. This has lowered the incidence of cavities as much as 65 percent. Use fluoride toothpaste.

Carbon monoxide: A fire alarm is not enough to protect you in your home. You need a carbon monoxide (CO) detector that you can get at the hardware store. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion that is produced by a home heating source. If a chimney from your furnace is blocked, carbon monoxide can collect in your home and kill you in your sleep. If you don't have one in your house, get one.

Radon: Radon is an invisible, odorless radioactive gas that could be in your home. A naturally occurring gas that seeps out of rocks and soil, it comes from uranium buried in the earth and is itself radioactive. Radon poses a risk of lung cancer. Get your house tested.

Q. A friend of mine has been diagnosed with epilepsy and it occurred to me that I wouldn't know what to do if he had a seizure in front of me.

The following are some instructions if you see someone having a seizure:

Ÿ First, call immediately for medical help.

Ÿ Roll the person on his/her side to prevent choking on any fluids.

Ÿ Cushion the person's head.

Ÿ Loosen any tight clothing around the neck.

Ÿ Do not put anything into the person's mouth, especially your fingers. It's a myth that people are in danger of swallowing their tongues during a seizure.

Ÿ Keep the person's airway open. If necessary, grip the person's jaw gently and tilt his/her head back.

Ÿ Don't try to restrain or wake someone having a seizure.

Ÿ If the person is moving, clear away dangerous objects.

Ÿ Stay with the person until medical personnel arrive. If possible, observe the person closely so that you can provide details on what happened.

Ÿ Look for a medical alert bracelet. The bracelet should have an emergency contact and names of medications the person uses.

Q. What causes hiccups?

A hiccup is a sudden, involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of the lungs that helps you breathe.

The exact cause of hiccups is an ancient mystery. Here are some possible causes:

Ÿ Stomach expansion from a big meal or swallowing air by gobbling food, drinking carbonated beverages or chewing gum. The expanded stomach presses on the diaphragm.

Ÿ Eating spicy food, which may irritate the nerves controlling diaphragm contractions.

Ÿ Drinking alcohol, which can relax your diaphragm and vocal cords.

Ÿ Stress or sudden excitement.

Ÿ Smoking, which may irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm.

Ÿ A sudden internal or external temperature change.

Ÿ Noxious fumes

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