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Environmental Working Group – Cancer Prevention Edition

Environmental Working Group’s adopted adage, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, could not possibly be more apt when it comes to the toxic soup of chemicals we are exposed to every day – in our cleaning products, the foods we buy at the supermarket, the water we drink, and the very air we breathe.

The aim and stated mission of EWG is to ensure that the public has at their disposal all the available tools necessary to help reduce the risk of cancer. From BPA to lead and mercury, the list of potentially carcinogenic chemicals is explained. Through the groundbreaking work of the Halifax Project, EWG has learned that specific combinations of these, and other chemicals, could cause cancer by disrupting multiple pathways and overwhelming the body’s defences.

Scientists are only beginning to investigate how certain chemicals may interact to contribute to cancer development. Given that we live in a sea of chemicals, it makes sense to begin reducing exposures to ones we know are bad.

Here are EWG’s tips for avoiding 12 harmful chemicals that have now been found to disrupt cancer-related pathways – known as cancer hallmarks. You may also be surprised by some of the chemicals that made EWG’s latest list. Take atrazine for example – one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. (and Canada) – a chemical so potent that male frogs exposed to low levels of it can turn into female frogs. Also included are tips on how to avoid each of these chemicals, and live links to helpful buying guides and calculation charts.

1. Bisphenol A (BPA) – is an industrial chemical used to make the plastics found 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 – is one of the most widely used herbicides, applied to the majority of U.S.- (and Canadian) corn crops.
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.
(Editor’s note: Since corn syrup is a common sweetener found in soda pop (ginger ale, cola, etc), avoid consumption of these drinks to reduce the body’s burden of atrazine.)

3. Organophosphate Pesticides – are widely used insecticides that target the nervous systems of insect pests.
How to Avoid – Buy organic produce when you can, especially as it can help you avoid produce with the highest pesticide residues.

4. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) – was 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.

(Editor’s note: Avoid processed foods that require cooking in a plastic dish.)

5. Lead – can harm 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, methyl-mercury, 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.

(Editor’s note: Dental amalgams consist of 50% mercury along with a combination of silver, tin, and copper. See pages 44 to 47 in Vitality’s September 2015 issue to find dentists experienced in mercury amalgam removal.)

7. PFCs – Per- or polyfluorochemicals, are 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 carry-out 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 – are common industrial chemicals used in PVC plastics to make vinyl toys soft, as well as in solvents and synthetic fragrances.

How to Avoid: See #9.

9. 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 such products as laundry detergents [1], air fresheners [2], and dryer sheets [3].

Since DEHP isn’t listed separately on labels, choose personal care, cleaning products, and air fresheners that do not include ‘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.

10.  PBDEs – are 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 manufacturers’ websites, and ask what chemicals are used on their products. Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter to remove particles from your home.

11. Triclosan – is an ingredient found in many liquid hand and dishwashing soaps as well as in many personal care products.
How to Avoid: Forgo “antibacterial” soap and other antibacterial products such as toothbrushes, toys, and cutting boards.

12. Nonylphenol – is a widely used ingredient in industry and consumer products such as detergents, paints, personal care products, and plastics.
How to Avoid: Start by checking out EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and avoid products that list ‘nonylphenol’ as an ingredient.

The excerpt above is reproduced with permission from Copyright © Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org

To read the full article, or for more information about EWG, visit https://tinyurl.com/o4jzcfl

About EWG – Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, D.C., is all about helping consumers to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which is key to reducing the risk of cancer. Cutting down on the number of toxic chemicals in your life is also critical to keeping you and your family healthy and cancer-free.

7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Chemical Air Fresheners

(Excerpt below is from Cinco Vidas Blog author, natural beauty expert, and cancer survivor Britta Aragon)

“The Environmental Working Group evaluated Febreze in 2009 to determine its safety as a school cleaning supply. Results showed that the product (Hawaiian Aloha option) released 89 air contaminants, including one carcinogen. Yet the manufacturer discloses only three of those ingredients. This was a particularly high number – the third highest released by any product tested. According to the label, the air freshener contains only an odour eliminator, water, fragrance, non-flammable natural propellant, and quality control ingredients.

Here’s more on the chemicals the EWG found:

• Acetaldehyde – on California’s Prop 65 list for cancer and reproductive toxicity
• Ethyl Acetate – a chemical toxic to the brain and nervous system
• BHT – linked with neurotoxicity, hormone disruption, allergies, and irritation to the skin, eyes, or lungs
• Propylene glycol – linked with allergies and skin and eye irritation
• 1,3-dichloro-2-propanol  – also used in flame retardants, resins, plastics, and rubber; has been linked with cancer in animal studies, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency.”

For more information, visit the Cinco Vidas Blog https://tinyurl.com/qc49ljr


[1] Tide detergent found to contain high levels of carcinogenic contaminant, by Matt Hickman: https://tinyurl.com/o7abgcy
[2] Exposed: The Shocking Truth About Air Fresheners, by Michelle Schoffro Cook: https://tinyurl.com/nqwpauv
[3] 5 Popular Home Products That Can be Surprisingly Toxic, by Cliff Weathers: https://tinyurl.com/kn7q6nj

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