Could your household cleaning products give you cancer?

Are your cleaning products giving you cancer?

As the Do You Know Cancer team continues to put into practice many of the anticancer lifestyle tips found in Anticancer: A New Way of Life, we decided to highlight the issue of potentially hazardous cleaning products and behaviors that we use and engage in every day – without considering the health risks.

One of the questions that many people may have, especially women, involves the use of deodorant. There were reports swirling around the Internet a few years ago suggesting that many of the popular deodorant brands might contribute to the eventual onset of breast cancer. Many oncologists recommend that women avoid deodorant brands containing aluminum, especially if they shave their underarms. The National Cancer Institute website asserts that there is no conclusive information available regarding the connection between aluminum-containing deodorant and breast cancer, but they do go on to say that some research suggests that aluminum, when absorbed into the skin, may cause “estrogen-like (hormonal) effects” and could potentially promote the growth of cancer cells. Using natural deodorants without aluminum is a good alternative – Dr. Hauschka makes a sweet-smelling roll on with zinc that is said to reduce odors…Martha Stewart is a fan! Many natural brands sell deodorants with rose, which is an antibacterial and helps control odor and wetness. You can probably find several brands of natural deodorant in your local grocery store now!

Many people also wonder about other cosmetics, including shampoo and makeup. As a general rule, products containing estrogens, parabens, BBP and DEHP (phthalates) should be avoided. Most organic products are free of parabens and phthalates, and retailers like The Body Shop do not sell cosmetics with these ingredients.

Around the house, there are some common products that we use all the time without considering the cancer risks associated with frequent use. These include kitchen and bathroom cleaning products containing alkyphenols: nonoxynol, nonlyphenol, etc. If you want to eliminate exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals, and save some serious cash, consider using a mixture of white vinegar and a little bit of water to clean and disinfect counters, sinks, floors, toilets and other hard surfaces, or use a baking soda mixture. If you prefer to buy cleaning products, look for the ‘Green Seal Certified’ label, or check the ingredient list to make sure the product is void of alkyphenols. Remember, just because it doesn’t smell like a chemical doesn’t mean it isn’t clean! You can achieve the same results with products that are less harsh, less hazardous and smell much less offensive.

Another debate involves the use of microwaves and whether or not reheating food items in plastic and other types of containers and whether or not this is safe. Most medical professionals suggest only heating foods and beverages in containers that do not contain PVCs and avoiding Styrofoam. Heating items in a glass or ceramic dish is recommended, especially in the microwave. The thinking behind this? PVCs from plastic containers can be absorbed into your food and beverage items during the heating process, and in turn you’re digesting them. PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride, and is one of the most frequently-used plastics. Products with PVCs contain certain chemicals that can “leak” at high temperatures. Studies – like a report from the seventies by two physicians who first linked the danger of PVC absorption in humans – state that people exposed were more likely to develop certain sarcomas, especially in the liver. Avoiding PVCs is a smart idea to protect the longterm health of you and your family!

(And don’t drink a water bottle if it’s been sitting in a hot car or in direct sunlight – the PVCs may have leached into the water. Get a cool reusable bottle instead to protect your health and the earth).

And of course, there’s the hot-button issue surrounding cell phone use and brain cancer. While further research is necessary (this seems to be the general consensus in the medical community) it’s recommended that you use a hands-free headset if possible so that you avoid holding your cell phone directly next to your head.

Once you start educating yourself about the ingredients in the products and foods you come into contact with each day, you can make smarter choices for your health. A good rule of thumb: if you can’t pronounce the first three ingredients, try to find a more natural product that contains ingredients that you’re more familiar with.

Tell us: what are some safe alternatives to potentially carcinogenic products that you use? Connect with us here by leaving us a comment, or visit our Facebook or Twitter page to share your thoughts!


The National Cancer Institute

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