Only 5-10% of breast cancer is from high-risk inherited genes. So why else are women getting it, and why has the number of women diagnosed jumped over the years?
Most women have heard of some of the non-genetic causes, like certain hormone replacement therapy drugs and alcohol. But many are not aware of the mounting evidence that also points to everyday chemicals. We refer to these harmful chemicals as toxics — harmful foreign substances — distinct from toxins, which are harmful but naturally-occurring substances. In today’s world, women are regularly exposed to chemicals linked to breast cancer in the air they breathe, in the water they drink, and even in the couch they sit on!
Unfortunately too little is being done to prevent exposure to these chemicals. That’s why Silent Spring Institute conducted a new study to identify the chemicals we should be most concerned about, and how to test for their presence in women’s bodies.
It is important that citizens tell both federal and state governments, as well as manufacturers and retailers, that they have an obligation to reduce our exposure to these chemicals.
But in the meantime, there are several steps you can take:
1. Avoid gasoline fumes
Don’t idle your car, and support local rules to reduce idling. When you are at the gas station or in traffic, keep your windows closed and set your air system to keep outdoor air from entering the car. You can also help reduce the amount of exhaust in the air by driving a fuel efficient vehicle or walking, and taking public transportation when you can.
Use electric rather than gas lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed whackers. But if you do have a gas container for your lawn equipment, keep it outside your home (not even in an attached garage or basement).
2. Don’t make food too well done when barbequing
We’ve all heard that well-done burgers are safer than undercooked ones, but did you know cooking food at high temperature so it’s burned is bad for you? Keep that in mind when grilling or even when cooking inside. Cooking fumes may also be linked to breast cancer, so always turn on your stove ventilation fan when cooking, and be sure it vents to the outside.
3. Make dust your enemy
Dust is much more than just an eyesore. Silent Spring Institute tested dust in homes and found many worrisome chemicals. Those toxics can wind up in the air you breathe or get on your hands and you may unintentionally swallow them.
Leave your shoes at the door so you’re not bringing in contaminants from the outside. Vacuum frequently and use a HEPA filter. Use WET mops and rags when you’re cleaning so you’re not just moving the dust around or sending it back into the air. Instead of cleaning with harsh chemicals, you can use plain water, or water with a little vinegar mixed in.
4. Avoid Flame Retardants
A major way people are exposed to flame retardants is through their furniture, but the chemicals can also be found in electronics, building materials, and kids’ pajamas. Look for couches, padded chairs and mattresses made from polyurethane foam that doesn’t have flame retardant chemicals. It is hard to believe that most foam in our furniture is made out of petroleum, which is highly flammable, and then chemicals are added to reduce the fire risk! Some materials, such as wool and polyester, are more flame resistant without the need for flame retardant chemicals. Loose-fitting sleepwear for children 9 months and older is subject to flammability tests – you can avoid flame retardants by buying snug fitting pajamas.
California’s decision to revise its furniture flammability standard is expected to result in an increased availability of flame retardant-free furniture across the U.S. Scientists, firefighters, and others agree that adding these chemicals to furniture makes fires more dangerous, not less, because they barely slow fires down, and they form hazardous fumes when they burn.
5. Skip Stain-Resistant Items
Some chemicals that make rugs, furniture and fabrics stain-resistant are also suspected to have links to breast cancer. You can get rid of stains the old fashioned way, with a little bit of elbow grease, rather than relying on a chemical that could increase your cancer risk.
6. Avoiding Dry Cleaners That Are Actually Making Your Clothes Dirty with Bad Chemicals
You know that smell in the air when you step foot into most dry cleaners? Chances are that is PERC or another harmful solvent. Workers at the cleaners have had elevated rates of cancer and studies have confirmed the dangers of these solvents. You can still get your clothes clean by asking for wet cleaning or choosing a cleaner that doesn’t use PERC. If your clothes were cleaned with PERC or other risky solvents, take off the plastic bag from the cleaner and put the clothes outside to air out.
7. Choose the Right Water Filter
Nasty chemicals can be found in tap water, though many people make the mistake of assuming bottled water is better. The best bet is to choose a solid block carbon filter, but it’s even better for communities to protect the water at its source. As for bottled water, it is far less well regulated than tap water. That’s why studies have repeatedly found contaminants in many brands of bottled water. In the long run you can save money and reduce your exposure to chemicals linked to breast cancer by demanding that your drinking water sources are protected, and by investing in a good filter at home.