The reality is, when it comes to carcinogens, there’s no way to avoid them ALL. Instead, it’s about finding balance and living a cleaner lifestyle where you can. Luckily, your home is a place where reducing carcinogens is easily within your control. So don’t feel alarmed, and let’s go through some super simple ways to do just that.
But first, what is a carcinogen exactly? Basically, it’s a big, scary word for a substance that has the potential to cause cancer in living tissue. But carcinogens do not cause cancer in every case, all the time, and they can have very different levels of cancer-causing potential. Even the strongest carcinogens don’t raise the risk of all types of cancer. (Source: American Cancer Society).
Still, we believe in helping people live cleaner by reducing harmful chemicals in their home, and that includes limiting exposure to carcinogens. So let’s get started.
Buy Organic Fruits and Veggies
Did you know that certain pesticides used in conventional farming contain carcinogens like arsenic, ethylene oxide and lindane? That’s why buying organic is often the way to go. Organic farming only uses pesticides as a last resort, and they’re typically based in a natural product. For example, bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (or B.t.) is an organic insecticide that’s derived from several species of plants related to daisies.
While it may not be possible to buy entirely organic due to cost and accessibility, you can limit your intake by focusing on the “Dirty Dozen” - a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that are the most likely to have harmful chemicals. And of course, we always recommend our Organic Fruit and Veggie Wash for removing dirt, wax, and other contaminants.
Rethink Your Cleaners
Conventional cleaners may not be as clean as you think, and many contain known carcinogens. Let’s talk about a few of the biggest offenders and how you can avoid them. First, there’s 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane occurs when ethoxylated surfactants are used, which means they often show up in soaps and detergents. While you’ll never see it listed on the label, you can avoid it by passing on any products that contain ingredients that end in “-eth,” such as laureth-6 or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ceteareth or steareth.
Second, there’s Ethanolamines. Ethanolamines are surfactants and emulsifiers that break down into carcinogenic toxins called nitrosamines. They’re often found in laundry detergents and surface cleaners. Luckily, they’re easy to avoid since most ethanolamine compounds contain either TEA, DEA or MEA in their chemical name, such as cocamide DEA.
And finally, there’s formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is present in many household products, despite not being listed on most labels. Unlike the two previous ingredients, without researching each ingredient in depth, it can be nearly impossible to recognize the formaldehyde-releasing preservatives found in common cleaners. Your best bet when shopping is to look for a “formaldehyde-free” claim on the bottle (we put ours right on the front!).
If you want to learn more about the harmful chemicals in conventional cleaners, visit our “Nasties” page. It has everything you need to know on avoiding no-good ingredients.
Reduce Soot Indoors
Sorry candle lovers, but burning even soy-based candles has a chance of adding harmful soot into the air. Soot is a type of particle matter that contains carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). While candles are the biggest indoor offender, gas furnaces can also be a cause. According to a study sampling 500,000 Americans in 116 different cities, prolonged exposure to soot can increase the risk of lung cancer. (Source: Standford.edu) Avoid any activities in your home that would contribute to adding unnecessary soot to the air and be wary of artificial fragrances and perfumes that can also contain unlisted carcinogens. If you’re still missing some of your favorite scents, may we recommend planting one of these around your home? Beautiful, natural, and of course, very fragrant.
Furniture and Formaldehyde
Sadly, formaldehyde is not just used in cleaning products. It’s also used in the manufacture of building materials. While governments and companies are becoming wiser to the detriments of formaldehyde in wood glues, it’s still important to pay attention to the furniture you bring into your home. Be careful when buying polywood, pressed wood, or particle board-based furniture. These products often use glues that contain formaldehyde. And when in doubt, your best bet is to purchase or thrift solid wood furniture. While more expensive, it’ll last longer and be less likely to contain harmful chemicals.
Considering how often they pop up in everyday products, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the task of reducing carcinogens in your home. Just take it one step at a time, and remember every little bit of progress helps. If you’d like more information on carcinogens and how to identify them, head to our Clean Chemistry page and take a look at our “Nasties” list (as mentioned earlier). That’s where we share the 500+ ingredients we promise to never use, as well as ways to identify some of the biggest offenders. After all, we believe the more you know, the more power you have to create a clean and healthy home for you and your family.