The 8 Known Carcinogens That Lurk in Most Of Our Homes

by admin on September 26, 2019 No comments

Limited daily exposure to toxins is tough in a pretty toxic world, but it’s a reasonable expectation that we all want to kick known carcinogens out of our homes. To that end, we asked Cara Bondi, a green scientists at Seventh Generation, to explain what’s on the top of her list. “It’s important to give context around how things are determined to be carcinogens and how they’re classified,” she explains. “The two classifications that we pay attention to are compounds that are known to be carcinogens—definitively proven, there’s no question about it—and then probably carcinogens. These are ingredients or chemicals that are reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens, they just need a little bit more data to push them over the edge. So for context, we lump those together.” Below Bondi explains what carcinogens can commonly be found in most homes. (For more on kicking toxins out of your home, see The Dirty on Getting Clean.)

1. Formaldehyde

“Formaldehyde is added to a lot of things, but the tricky thing is that when you look at an ingredient list, you’re not going to see formaldehyde. This is because there are a class of preservatives that are known to be formaldehyde-releasers. The way these preservatives work is that you put them into the formula, they go through a series of chemical reactions, and then they release formaldehyde into the formula. It’s the formaldehyde that does the preserving and that’s what kills the bugs—it’s a known human carcinogen that’s in the formula without most people’s knowledge. They are very common: They’re in body care, face care, makeup—especially mascara and liquid foundation—hand washes, body soap, room spray. It goes on and on. It doesn’t feel good to know that those are approved for us.”

LOOK FOR: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, hydroxymethylglycinate, Bronopol, which is a trade name, which sometimes shows up as 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol. And then there’s a related compound, 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane.

2. Glyphosate

“This is a new addition to the list of known human carcinogens—it was added in March 2015, and there has been a ton of pushback from the makers of this chemical and from big agriculture. It is very contentious. But the International Agency on Research for Cancer deemed this a known carcinogen and that is a very big deal. Glyphosate is an herbicide and it can be found in most garages, but beyond that, because it’s one of the most commonly used herbicides in agriculture it’s probably on or in any food in your house that isn’t organic. It’s just kind of everywhere. Beyond that, when you think about tampons, if you’re using tampons that have cotton that isn’t organic, well, you have the potential to introduce glyphosate to a very sensitive area of your body. There are lots of places this herbicide can show up. I’m not sure what the residues look like in textiles, but there’s also the potential for textiles to be contaminated with it, depending on what it is.”

3. Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), and Triethanolamine (TEA)

“The ethanolamines are sort of like formaldehyde-releasers—in of themselves, they are not carcinogens. They have some environmental issues, but in of themselves, they’re not harmful. But what happens is that ethanolamines can interact with other ingredients in the formula—and if those ingredients have nitrates, they can then form nitrosamines, which are known human carcinogens. It’s another tricky one. They’re very common in personal care products because they’re used as emulsifiers, i.e. to make the oil and water ingredients come together and stay together. They’re also used to adjust the pH balance.”

4. 1-4 Dioxane

“This is a possible/reasonably-anticipated-to-be-a-carcinogen—not quite up in the known. Ethoxylated surfactants, through their processing, can be contaminated with 1-4 dioxane, which then becomes a part of the formula. Surfactants are literally in anything that makes a bubble, whether it’s laundry soap, dish soap, personal care products, or what you wash your car with. Again, it’s one of those things that you won’t see on the label: You have to know and care about it to be sure it’s not in your products.”

5. Styrene

“When you hear styrene, you might think Styrofoam containers, but styrene is actually a very commonly used ingredient in fragrances. And it’s a known human carcinogen. Here’s the thing about fragrances: Most manufactures do not list the content of their fragrances. There isn’t transparency in fragrances because they’re proprietary to the fragrance house, and they often contain up to 200 ingredients. But we know that styrene is in many fragrances because IFRA (International Fragrance Association) releases a list of every ingredient their membership is using, from the biggest houses to the eensiest manufacturers, and styrene is on the list. It is important to buy products that don’t have “fragrance” or “parfum” listed on their label—buy products that disclose every ingredient in their fragrance.”

6. Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB)

“There has been a lot of regulation around PCB’s because people are aware of them: They were used in children’s pajamas as a flame-retardant, which is not commonly done anymore. But there’s still some of it. A few research studies came out recently showing that PCBs are still showing up in consumer products, primarily in things with a yellow pigment, like yellow clothing, and yellow paper. They found a fair amount of PCBs, and believe it’s related to the pigments. If it’s in textiles, in particular, you’re wearing it, you’re sleeping in it, you’re wrapping your baby in it. I’m not saying to not buy anything yellow, just be mindful of the fact that PCBs could be in there.”

7. Lead

“There have been a lot of stories in recent years about how lead is in lipstick, and, as we know, lead is in old paint. Lead is very commonly found in colorants, as it’s a naturally-occurring element. So when you’re looking at products that are painted, or coated with a colorant, look for a no-heavy-metals type of communication. While there’s some research to suggest that it’s a probable human carcinogen, the real problem with lead is that it’s a neurotoxin that can lead to learning disabilities and developmental disorders.”

8. Benzene

This is another ingredient that is not intentionally added, but it pops up in solvents, rubber cement, adhesives, and degreasers, i.e., things you might have under your kitchen sink or in your garage. It’s a known human carcinogen. It won’t show up on the label, but many companies are aware of the issue and are making No-Benzene claims on their packaging—you can also call them to ask.

On the Watchlist:

BPA: “This is a tough one because it’s not on any list as a carcinogen, though there’s emerging research that certainly suggests that it is. We avoid BPA because of its hormone-disrupting nature. As far as being carcinogenic, though, it’s not one I’d put on the list just yet.”

PVC: “The same is true of PVCs—commonly found in products like toys and shower curtains—they’re on-deck to be added to the known carcinogen list.”


Is a Healthy Gut
the Key to Aging Well?

Many of us (reasonably) look to our genetics for answers about how we will age. But we have much more autonomy over our health than that narrative suggests, says Dr. Steven Gundry, whose latest book, The Longevity Paradox, explores some of the biggest myths about aging. “Your fate does not lie in your genes at all,” he says. “It lies in your microbiome, and many of your daily decisions influence how you will age and the diseases you will either acquire or avoid.”

A Q&A with Steven Gundry, MD

Research suggests our fate lies in our microbiome: Many of our daily decisions about and interactions with food, personal-care products, and environmental factors influence how happy or unhappy these cells will be in their home. The health of our gut microbiome largely determines how we will age and the diseases we will either acquire or avoid.

In a recent study, women who exercised regularly throughout their lives decreased their chances of developing dementia by 90 percent, compared to those who didn’t routinely exercise. It doesn’t have to be much. It’s great to aim for around 3,000 to 4,000 steps—or one to two miles—per day. Moreover, in the group of exercisers, if they went on to develop dementia, it appeared on average eleven years later than it appeared in the group that did not exercise.

If there were a drug that were 90 percent effective in stopping dementia, how much would we pay to take it? That drug is actually probably sitting at your feet wagging its tail wanting to go for a long walk (hint: It’s your dog). In my office, I even write prescriptions for people to get a dog, and many patients say it’s the best prescription anyone has ever given them.

I was a professor at a university in one of the world’s best-known and only blue zones in America—Loma Linda, California. Loma linda means beautiful hill in Spanish; a commonality among all the blue zones is that all of the communities live on hills. I tell my patients an easy trick if you’re in a building: If going up the stairs is too hard or you don’t want to break a sweat going to the big meeting, ride the elevator up and then walk back down.

Recent research has shown that exercising for as little as thirty minutes a day can change the gut microbiome for the better. This would include things such as yoga, walking your dog, or even gardening or meditation. However, certain exercises, such as long-distance running, can damage and even scar the heart muscle.

The brain has a newly discovered glymphatic system that is responsible for washing toxic substances and proteins, like amyloid, out of the brain. This wash occurs during deep sleep, which usually happens early in the sleep cycle. Deep sleep is different from REM sleep, which is when we dream and can actually consolidate the things that we’ve learned. We used to think that REM was the most important part of the sleep cycle, but it’s probably more important to clean your brain. Deep sleep is the first stage of sleep and comes before REM sleep. In terms of cleaning your brain, deep sleep is more important. Increased blood flow to the brain is needed during this time.

As a general rule, the greater the time between eating your last meal and going to bed, the more blood flow will be directed to your brain versus your gut. (If you eat close to bedtime, blood is diverted to your intestines to aid in digestion.) Try to finish dinner three to four hours before bedtime. No snacking in between finishing dinner and bed. Start by doing this once a week and build up from there. If you can, try making your dinnertime earlier to extend your period of restricted feeding.

When you practice intermittent fasting, the body sends signals to the cells that there isn’t much energy to work with and they need to recycle existing parts. Those signals promote autophagy and mitophagy: cellular and mitochondrial self-cleaning in which dysfunctional components are recycled or removed. And it turns out this process is really great for you: If a dysfunctional cell doesn’t recycle its parts, it eventually bursts, and the loose cellular materials are capable of causing inflammation in the body. It’s autophagy, this clearance of cellular debris, that’s the new vanguard in anti-aging research.

Mushrooms contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine, which has been shown to diminish the risk of dementia. Aim for two cups of mushrooms per week. Mushrooms also contain a high level of polyamines, which are longevity-promoting compounds.

Nuts do wonderful things for your microbiome and have been shown to lower the risk of cancer. I recommend walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios.

Cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, benefit the gut, are rich in antioxidants, and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Lentils also contain polyamines.

Olive oil has been shown to actually grow neurons in humans, and research suggests it can help prevent or slow the development of dementia. It has anti-inflammatory properties due to its high level of polyphenols.

Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, are a great source of polyamines.

Green tea contains a powerful polyphenol called EGCG. This antioxidant works to slow aging, keep inflammation at bay, and extend lifespan.

Avoid: The real killers are simple sugars and foods that rapidly convert to sugars, saturated animal fats, and most animal proteins. The one factor that unites the blue zones is that the people who live in them all eat very little animal protein. Lectins are another one to avoid because they are one of the major reasons that our gut wall is broken down, and one of the major determinants of aging is the breakdown of the gut wall.


Dr. Steven Gundry is the founder and director of the International Heart and Lung Institute as well as the Center for Restorative Medicine. He is the author of The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain, The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age , and the upcoming The Plant Paradox Family Cookbook.

This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.

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