In recent years there has been some research about household chemicals and any links to cancer with some interesting results. Some of the results of the studies have been alarming, but there have also been doubts over the integrity of the studies themselves. This article will take a quick look at some of the recent research and give you a number of tips to avoid contamination from potentially toxic chemicals that may cause cancer.
In one recent study, it was found that women who were frequently exposed to household chemicals were as much as twice as likely to get breast cancer. Very alarming, but the research may have been potentially been affect by recall bias – the women with breast cancer were more likely to remember what chemicals they were in contact with while cleaning their house. The research was asking a group of women, some who had breast cancer and some who did not, about their exposure to chemicals. The women with breast cancer may have been more likely to remember the chemicals given their health condition.
That particular study was from a sample of 721 women who did not have breast cancer, and 787 women who did have breast cancer and relied on their ability to recall their chemical exposure. The study found links to breast cancer especially high in women who claimed to use both chemicals for mildew control (like bathroom cleaners) and chemical air fresheners. Women who used both of those kinds of chemical products where twice as likely to be in the group of women that had breast cancer. The study found that for solid air fresheners, women who used them seven or more times a year had twice the risk of breast cancer compared to women who never used it.
The study is somewhat controversial because of recall bias and the small sample, but there are many scientifically proven risk factors for cancer from exposure to toxic chemicals. It is important to note that some people are more sensitive to chemicals and health issues pop up when they are exposed to chemicals, from small things like a runny nose and headaches, through to breathing difficulties and rashes. It has been suggested that if you have a bad reaction when exposed to chemicals you may be more susceptible to more dangerous health problems from the chemicals and should take action to limit exposure.
The Cancer Prevention Prevention Coalition reports that residues from more than 400 toxic chemicals have been found in human tissue and we must be absorbing these chemicals from our environment. The CPPC provide a list of some of the hazardous chemicals in household products (PDF).
The CPPC reports that other studies have found that households which use garden pesticides have seen a 4 to 7 times increase in risk of Leukemia. Childhood brain cancer has also shown an increase risk level from household pesticides, flea collars, insecticides and herbicides. Carbaryl and Diazinon are two of the very common chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Methylene chloride is a common households propellent which is used in many fly sprays, and is also linked to cancer.
Some chemical air fresheners, which many people use on a frequent basis, may contain dangerous Methylene chloride as well.
However there is still a lot of conjecture when looking at the role of household products in causing cancer. What we do know is that humans are absorbing the chemicals and many of the chemicals are in household products. Many of these chemicals have proven links with cancer. To what extent and how direct the link between the actual products and the cancer is, is still up for debate.
Reducing Cancer Risk
With the potential for increased cancer risk, what should we be doing? Well there are some simple steps to lower potential cancer risk and general health risk from household cleaners.
- Read Labels Carefully and use the products as intended
- Do not mix chemicals – it could cause potentially dangerous chemical reactions
- Avoid all contact with chemicals while pregnant
- Use the recommended amount, do not go overboard
- Use products in well ventilated areas
- Wear gloves while using potentially harmful chemicals
- Do not eat or drink while using chemicals and wash your hands thoroughly after using them.
You should also consider natural alternatives. Is there a safer chemical free way to clean your bathroom? There are many alternatives to household chemicals. Also there may be chemicals that you use which are entirely optional, like air fresheners. Perhaps it would be better to buy some potpourri and open the windows more often? With a little bit of planning and thought, you can greatly lower your cancer risk from household chemicals.