As a parent and spouse, you try to ensure your family is healthy and happy, and you do everything within your power to keep them safe. It doesn’t cross your mind that the products that you are using to keep them safe may actually be placing them in harm’s way.
When you think of health and well-being, proper nutrition and supplementation are often on the top of the list of ways to keep your family safe. You don’t consider analyzing the products you use for cleaning purposes, for example.
The truth is that there are a number of known carcinogens in our homes lurking in the shower, the toilet, the kitchen cupboard, and the rest of the house that have the potential to substantially increase the risk of you or your family developing cancer.
Here is a list of potential dangers, from air-fresheners to shower curtains, which you can look out for to make your home safe again.
According to a report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council, many of the air-fresheners we use in our homes on a regular basis contain compounds with carcinogenic potential.
The vast majority of air-fresheners, even some marked “all-natural” or “unscented,” contain compounds called phthalates.
Different types of phthalates have different health consequences although the majority of them affect reproductive health. Many of them can exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma.
Homemade air fresheners are one of the simplest products to make. Distilled water and a few drops of your favorite essential oils in a spritz bottle is all you need to keep your home smelling great.
Shake well before each use and mist the spray around your home whenever you want to freshen the air. Or you can use it in an aromatherapy diffuser.
The other possibly dangerous and toxic product in your home could be hidden within your favorite scented candles.
We all know that lead can be dangerous and lead poisoning can be disastrous for health, but when you see descriptions like essential oil and aromatherapy, you automatically assume that these products are healthy.
Although the US Consumer Council has banned the sale of candles containing lead wicks, it is still a good idea to check your candles to make sure they don’t contain this potentially dangerous substance.
Many scented products also contain dozens of harmful toxins and carcinogens. So check the chemicals used to create the scents of your products too.
A simple way to check your candles is to use a piece of paper. Holding the wick, try to draw a line on the paper. If there is no line, then the wick most likely does not contain lead.
You can also light the candle and hold the paper high above the flame. If a gray soot residue forms, your candles may contain lead.
Shower Curtains and Other Plastics
The next danger comes from the plastic toxins that seem to be all over the house. You may recognize polyvinyl chloride by its abbreviation: PVC. PVC is the third highest produced type of plastic in the world.
Although PVC may be harmless for certain applications, like sewer pipes for example, but when used in environments that can release the toxic carcinogenic compounds of PVC, this plastic polymer could become a ticking time bomb.
Shower curtains contain PVC and other toxic compounds that can be released as you shower. These toxins can affect the reproductive system, the respiratory system, and may be carcinogenic as well.
Some of the plastic products used to make children’s toys, containers, and other plastics may also be a health hazard .
Healthier alternatives for shower curtains include natural cotton curtains (like this one) or EVA curtains (EVA is a non-toxic alternative to PVC) like this one. Check your children’s toys and your plastic containers to make sure they are PVC free.
Carpet Cleaners and Fabric Shampoos
Many carpet shampoos and fabric cleaners that are designed to offer superior stain removal power use a product called perchloroethylene. Perchloroethylene, also called Tetrachlorethylene, has been linked to increased risks of developing lung cancer.
Carpet cleaners and fabric shampoos also sometimes contain a compound called naphthalene. Naphthalene is the main ingredient in mothballs, and naphthalene exposure is linked to an increased risk in developing throat and lung cancers.
Baking soda is a great odor remover and white vinegar is effective for removing dirt and stains. If you want to get rid of your carpet shampoo, sprinkle your carpets with baking soda, add vinegar to your water to shampoo, and then wait for your carpets to dry.
Sprinkle with baking soda again if necessary and then vacuum any powder that remains.
Steam cleaning is another healthy option for keeping your carpets clean without the chemicals in carpet shampoo.
Dry Cleaning Products
According to the American Cancer Society, another carcinogen hidden in your cupboards could be Tetrachlorethylene or Perchloroethylene that has been used on your dry-cleaned items. These chemicals are often included as solvents in products like dry cleaning products.
Wearing clothes that were dry-cleaned can unintentionally expose you to these harmful substances. Make sure your local cleaner doesn’t use perchlorethylene to clean your cloths.
Insecticides and Pesticides
The term family usually extends to our furry friends. One would think that the products promoted as pet friendly would indeed be pet and human friendly.
However, like your cleaning materials, there are a number of potentially carcinogenic chemicals in many of the tick, flea, and lice control products too.
Some tick and flea products contain organophosphate insecticides, permethrin, and carbamates. These products are listed as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
We are often fooled into thinking that certain products are automatically safe. This is particularly true of products like antibacterial products that are supposedly designed to make our environments safer.
Recent concerns about an ingredient used in many antibacterial products have led to a ban in the use of this product in areas like the EU.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal ingredient found in many cosmetics, soaps, detergents and even in this top selling toothpaste.
Evidence suggests that Triclosan may be carcinogenic. Although initial tests were only done on mice, there were enough concerns to ban the product in the EU.
Products like silver have been used for their antibacterial and antimicrobial properties (for example, advancing biotechnology incorporates ionizable silver into fabrics for clinical use to reduce the risk of infections), and the use of silver does not seem to pose any major danger to humans.
I’ve already mentioned that your deodorant may contain a harmful neurotoxin, but did you know that it can also cause cancer?
Dr. Philip Harvey, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Toxicology looked into the ways cosmetics interact with your body. He says that wiping the chemicals found in deodorants under your arms and on the sides of your chest or breasts “could provide a route of almost direct exposure to underlying tissue containing estrogen receptors.”
This is concerning because, both parabens and aluminum, found in deodorants, are “estrogenic” chemicals-which means that they interact with your body’s hormones or cells in ways similar to estrogen.
According to the National Cancer Institute, excess estrogen plays a role in promoting the growth of cancer cells which is a great concern because of our daily exposure to deodorants.
Harvey says that his calculations suggest these cosmetic chemicals may “significantly add to estrogenic burdens.”
Don’t Take Safety for Granted
The above list of products is just a sampling of the potential dangers of the products we take for granted.
You need to take an active interest in the products you rely on to keep your family safe. Research the products you use regularly and search the ingredients.