Common Cancer-Causing Chemicals You Are Exposed To

Scientists are only beginning to investigate how certain chemicals may contribute to cancer development. But given that we live in a sea of chemicals, it makes sense to begin reducing exposure to those that have been found to disrupt cancer-related pathways, known as cancer hallmarks:

1. Bisphenol A (BPA)

An industrial chemical used to make plastics that are used in food and beverage containers and the linings of most food and beverage cans.

How to avoid:

Instead of canned foods, opt for fresh food and food that comes in glass jars or waxed cardboard cartons. When purchasing canned foods or plastic products, buy those that indicate they are made without BPA. Avoid plastics marked “PC” (for polycarbonate) or recycling #7, which may contain BPA. Finally, say no to cash register receipts, since they’re often printed on thermal paper coated with BPA.

2. Atrazine

One of the most widely used herbicides, applied to the majority of U.S.-grown corn.

How to avoid:

Atrazine can be a contaminant in drinking water supplies, especially in agricultural areas. Consider a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine by consulting EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide.

3. Organophosphate Pesticides

Widely used insecticides that target the nervous systems of insect pests.

How to avoid:

Buy organic produce when you can, especially to avoid produce with the highest pesticide residues.

4. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

Widely used in nail polish until 2006. That use was voluntarily halted, but it is still an ingredient in soft and flexible plastics such as shower curtains, raincoats, food wraps and bowls.

How to avoid:

Limit use of soft plastics for purposes such as storing food and limit the use of PVC plastics.

5. Lead

Lead harms almost every organ system in the body and has been linked to a staggering array of health effects, including lowered IQ, miscarriage, kidney damage, nervous system problems and hormone disruption.

How to avoid:

Use EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide to limit your exposure from drinking water, and be careful when removing crumbling old paint – a major source of exposure.

6. Mercury

Along with its organic form, methylmercury, it is toxic to the brain, kidneys, liver, heart and nervous system. Mercury exposure during pregnancy is highly dangerous to the developing fetus, leading to impaired development of the brain and nervous system.

How to avoid:

Some seafoods – especially canned albacore tuna, swordfish and some types of sushi – are especially high in mercury. Use EWG’s Seafood Calculator to determine which fish is safest for you to consume.

7. PFCs

Per- or polyfluorochemicals, widely used to make, among other things, water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings.

How to avoid:

Find products that haven’t been pre-treated with stain repellents and skip home-applied treatments of carpets and furniture; limit fast food and greasy carryout foods that often come in PFC-treated wrappers; choose clothing that doesn’t carry Gore-Tex or Teflon tags as well as fabrics labeled stain- or water-repellent; avoid non-stick pans and kitchen utensils; don’t use microwaveable popcorn bags; and finally, select personal care products without “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients.

8. Phthalates

Common industrial chemicals used in PVC plastics to make vinyl toys soft, as well as in solvents and synthetic fragrances. Diethlyhexyl Phthalate (DEHP) is the most commonly used of a class of phthalates that may be associated with alterations in thyroid hormone levels.

How to avoid:

Phthalates may be used as a fragrance ingredient in products. Since it isn’t listed separately on labels, choose personal care, cleaning products and air fresheners without “fragrance” on the ingredient list. Plastics also often contain phthalates, so avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic and give your children wooden or phthalate-free toys. Many products – from lawn furniture to some clothing (such as raincoats) to shower curtains – contain DEHP vinyl. Try to avoid them.

9. PBDEs

Chemical fire retardants widely used in polyurethane foam products manufactured before 2005, including upholstered furniture, mattresses, pillows, couches, carpet padding and electronics. Although they have been taken off the market, they are incredibly persistent and continue to be a reason for concern.

How to avoid:

Avoid foam products manufactured before 2005 and look for those made after 2014. Read labels, visit manufactures’ websites and ask what chemicals are used on their products. Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter to remove particles from your home.

10. Triclosan

An ingredient in many liquid hand and dishwashing soaps as well as many personal care products.

How to avoid:

Forgo antibacterial soap and other antibacterial products, such as toothbrushes, toys and cutting boards.

11. Nonylphenol

Widely used ingredient in industrial and consumer products such as detergents, paints, personal care products and plastics.

How to avoid:

Start by checking out our easy, at home cleanser recipes and avoid products that list nonylphenol as an ingredient.




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2 Comments Add yours

  1. just my opinion- energy moves matter. this detailed list (good job, thanks for the research) is a mere trifle of dangerous elements we daily consume, ingest, breath, touch, etc… Chances are that EACH OF US ALREADY HAS ALL OF THESE AND MORE in us!!
    So WHY do some get cancer and not others? Why do some get a cold every time one comes around? Why do some die from smoking?

    I think we would be AMAZED, (and scared to death) if we became AWARE of what our body has ALREADY fought off just TODAY – internally, that did not kill us. We have no idea the “miracles” that are going on as we write!!! Let alone over the whole day, or week, or years!!

    Literally millions of chemical, neuron, pulmonary, electrical, etc…. of reactions occurred in our body already today- without us knowing about it – that either DID or DID NOT deal to our liking with these dangerous chemicals.

    What energy decided how those millions of chemical reactions were handled? My awareness, my cognitive ability to avoid them, my fear of them, my dislike of them- had NO part in it.
    Perhaps the JOY and LAUGHTER I felt playing with a toy that had “germs” on it – was the ENERGY that over-rode the “handle or don’t handle properly” chemical reaction?
    Perhaps FEAR is an emotion that epigenetically directs chemical reactions in a different manner than an emotion like Love or Comfort or Appreciation?

    YES, I believe in an organic, safe and take care of myself and Earth type lifestyle. But, frankly, I could never complete a walk if I stop to throw a rock at every dangerous dog.
    Think of everyone’s list of “be afraid of this”, and one would be so bound and scared – their body would live in a heightened mode of “fight or flight”, never relaxing, and thus aging and wearing out prematurely.
    Again, thanks for posting the list, some people will learn from it, and delete this message if you wish, but just wanted to throw in an honest opinion from a total stranger. be well, and no offense my friend.


    1. Erin Estacio says:

      You are absolutely right – there is SO MUCH that we are exposed to. As you said, throwing rocks at every dog would not be very beneficial in the long term.
      So many big companies use toxic additives where they see fit to save themselves money. I find it to be a struggle, but great comfort when I am able to avoid certain toxins where I can, as a consumer.
      You offer such great points on the ongoing consumer struggle! Thank you for sharing first hand what are the concerns of so many!


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