Cancer

Many of the toxic substances in our homes can cause or put us at risk of cancer.

Cancer is a group of illnesses which are caused and developed in various ways where many different factors may play a role, particularly regarding the environment where toxic chemicals are in abundance.

Scientific studies have linked some pollutants found in our homes to various forms of cancer. Formaldehyde, for example, has been linked to adult leukaemia, nasopharyngeal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer etc. Benzene has been linked to acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia, pre-leukaemia, kidney cancer, acute lymphocytic leukaemia, bone cancer, adult brain cancer, breast cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, gallbladder cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Acetaldehyde has been linked to throat and nasopharyngeal cancer, amongst others.

It is a well-known fact that cases of cancer are increasing and that this increase correlates with, amongst other factors, an increase in our exposure to various pollutants. According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that between 2000 and 2020, this will increase by a further 50%. Evidently, the lack of precautionary measures taken regarding the causes of these illnesses could be the main reason for this whole issue. The exposure to carcinogenic chemicals is among these possible causes.

Hundreds of scientific investigations have linked link exposure to these chemicals, often found in our homes, to certain cancers.

The number of cases of breast cancer has rapidly increased and, despite the fact that countries e.g. Spain have barely any precautionary measures in place regarding chemical exposure, other countries such as the United States have organisations like the Breast Cancer Fund which put a lot of emphasis on preventing the risks. Once a year, this organisation publishes a report based on numerous scientific studies which look at the connection between the environment and breast cancer. In the report, many possible factors are researched, including several found in our daily lives: synthetic hormones in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and meat; pesticides in food; solvents in cleaning products; bisphenol A in food and drink cans; flame retardants in fabrics; plastics or furniture in the home.  

Some studies have associated breast cancer with hormone-altering chemicals e.g. aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PCBs, solvents, tetrachloroethylene, 1,3-butadiene, acrylamide, benzene, dioxins, electromagnetic fields, ethylene oxide, methylene chloride, pesticides, styrene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride etc.

Some research centres have also studied the link between the usage level of pesticides in our home and an increased risk risk of suffering breast cancer, as well as an increased risk from a number of products such as cleaning products, insect repellents and air fresheners.

These studies warn us about everyday household products which can contain carcinogenic chemicals or chemicals which may alter our hormonal balance (breast cancer, for example, is closely linked to hormones). Chemicals such as benzene, styrene, artificial musks, phthalates or formaldehyde can be emitted from air fresheners and pollute the air we breathe. The studies also warn about: waterproof and stain-proof linings which may contain perfluorinated compounds; soaps and brighteners which may contain nitrobenzene and fabric cleaners which may contain methylene chloride. Finally, studies have highlighted many other additives with various purposes (surfactants, solvents, preservatives, antibacterial agents, fragrances etc.)

These issues regarding breast cancer can also apply to other forms of cancer e.g. lung cancer. Lung cancer is nearly always blamed on tobacco but it can also be caused or exacerbated by chemical pollutants in the home.

Several scientific investigations have linked lung cancer to substances such as: aluminium, arsenic, benzopyrene, cadmium, chloromethyl ethers, chromium-6, mineral oils, nickel, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g. creosote), radon, silicon, tobacco smoke, uranium, aromatic amines, chlorophenols, copper, epochlorohydrin, nitrosamines, solvents, 1,2-dichloroethane, antimony, benzene, formaldehyde, glass wool, isoprene, methylene chloride, nitrobenzene, pyrethrins or pyrethroids, stone wall, styrene, tetrachloroethylene, titanium dioxide, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride etc. 

Many other cancers can be caused or their symptoms worsened by chemicals in our homes e.g. cancer in children. There have been studies which show a strong link between an increased risk of childhood leukaemia and exposure to household pesticides. Illnesses such as prostate cancer may be made worse by contaminants in the home. Prostate cancer has been associated with: pesticides, atrazine, solvents, bisphenol A, cadmium, aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, acrylonitrile, chlorophenols, chromium, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene etc.

There have also been investigations which have linked an increased risk of melanomas, for example, to a prolonged use of household pesticides.

By reducing our exposure to a wide range of chemicals in our homes, we could reduce our risk of suffering from cancer.