Of the many tens of thousands of potentially carcinogenic chemicals now in regular use in the United States, only a few hundred have been tested for safety.
The panel stated that our government’s regulatory approach is “reactionary rather than precautionary.” Instead of taking preventive measures in cases where uncertainty exists, government inaction prevails unless there is actual proof of harm.
Related: The Toxic Stuff In Sunscreen That’s Affecting Your Health
Many environmental researchers estimate that the carcinogens in our environment are responsible for about 50 percent of all cancers in the United States.
However, the American Cancer Society estimates that only about 6 percent of cancers in this country are related to environmental causes. Their position is that environmental causes may be overestimated and confounded due to the population’s exposure to so many chemicals, the lack of specific patient information, and the potential risk from medical-imaging radiation.
No definite link has been established between many of the chemicals proven to be carcinogenic to laboratory test animals and the actual development of cancer in humans. Despite this, it is advisable to avoid any chemical that is shown to have carcinogenic potential. However, you should recognize that carcinogenicity may not be related exclusively to the simple presence of any given chemical substance, but also to the amount (dosage) and duration of exposure and to the susceptibility of the individual to that chemical.
There are many more sources of possibly carcinogenic toxins that we encounter on a regular basis, both as the more typically perceived industrial waste and in forms as seemingly benign as how we cook our meat for dinner.
How to Avoid Toxins
Unfortunately, there are so many toxins in our environment and in our homes that it’s almost impossible to avoid all of them. You can, however, limit your toxin exposure by becoming familiar with the names of toxins that should be avoided and by reading labels to avoid them when possible.
So what is there to be done to avoid toxins in your immediate environment as well as the wider environment?
The Environment in Your Home
To mitigate some of the effects of pollution entering your home, follow the same protocols that many people with allergies follow, including these precautions.
Use a HEPA air filter, which traps fine particles of dust in the air. Dust surfaces and windowsills (by wiping down surfaces with a cloth, rather than just using a duster to move dust around), and mop, sweep, and vacuum floors frequently.
Remove shoes inside your home. This cuts down on the amount of sweeping and mopping you’ll have to do, too!
Wash your hands after digging in your garden or digging in dirt. Make sure children wash their hands when they come inside after playing. The soil around many homes has large amounts of lead, especially if you have an older home. If you are concerned about your home in particular, you can have your soil tested for lead contamination.
Crack your windows. It’s important to keep air circulating to ventilate your home.
Wash pets at least every few weeks. Their fur can trap contaminants.
Wash linens weekly.
Related: The Organic Way To Dry Your Clothes
Do the Detox
In addition to the microscopic contaminants that enter your home from the environment, there are many potentially toxic household products that you can avoid with a little thought. Detoxifying your home can be a freeing experience, and it will force you to go through all those cleaning supplies and lidless food storage containers once and for all!
Get rid of your existing reusable plastic containers and utensils. Replace them with BPA- and BPH-free plastic or containers made of ceramic or glass.
Get rid of all cleaning supplies made with ingredients that might be carcinogenic. Common toxic ingredients in household cleaners include chlorine bleach, ammonia, lye, diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), alkylphenol ethoxylates, butyl cellosolve, phosphates, petroleum, and chemical fragrances. Of course, it’s not that easy to interpret the ingredients on a product bottle, so the Organic Consumers Association recommends his trick. Instead of looking at individual ingredients, look for the terms Danger, Poison, Warning, or Caution. Products with the words Danger or Poison are the most toxic. Products with the word Warning are moderately hazardous. And products noting Caution are slightly toxic.
We Like This: Fresh Home Cleaning Trial Kit
Replace them with products that display none of these words. Most cleaning can be done with some basic, nontoxic supplies, including vinegar, liquid castile soap, and baking soda. You can also find cleaners free of toxins by shopping at a natural foods store. Ask a store clerk for guidance in picking the best product for your needs. Recent to the market are mops that use boiling water to clean and disinfect surfaces, avoiding toxic ingredients altogether.
Get rid of nonstick pots and pans, especially if they are scratched or damaged. Nonstick pans contain perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs, which can be released—even if the pot or pan is brand-new—when heated to 500 degrees or higher. Perfluorinated chemicals have been shown in studies to likely be carcinogenic and cause a host of other health problems. Replace them with new stainless steel or cast-iron pots and pans.
Consider getting rid of wall-to-wall carpets and replacing them with hardwood floors and area rugs. Wall-to-wall carpets can release chemicals, or off-gas, for many years after purchase. If you’re not in a position to get rid of your carpet, however, you can mitigate the effects of off-gassing by providing good ventilation in the rooms where you have carpets. Open windows and doors and turn on the fan whenever possible.
Related: Why Your Carpets Are Truly Toxic
If possible, get rid of standard mattresses, which can also off-gas, and replace them with mattresses made of organic materials.
Do not use vinyl shower curtains, which can release chemicals. Replace them with curtains made of EVA or PEVA plastic, nylon, cotton, or polyester. If you’re not sure whether a curtain is vinyl, look for the number 3 or the letters PVC on the packaging. Another tell-tale sign of a PVC curtain is the distinctive new curtain smell.
Get rid of pesticides. Replace them with mouse or rat traps, and keep counters and floors clean of anything sweet or sticky to avoid ants. If you need something stronger, there are a few products on the market that have lower toxins.
Get rid of furniture treated with traditional stain resistant products. These products have been shown to break down into PFCs. Instead, buy a couch made of fabric that is easy to clean, such as leather or hemp, and consider using a slipcover and pillows with covers so they can be slipped off and cleaned.
Reprinted from After Cancer Care by Gerald Lemole, MD, Pallav Mehta, MD, and Dwight McKee, MD. Copyright (c) 2015 by Gerald Lemole, MD, Pallav Mehta, MD, and Dwight McKee, MD. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.