October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a time when people become more educated about the signs of breast cancer, its symptoms, and how to help prevent it. Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, one of every eight women will learn they have invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.
Breast Cancer has risen since World War II, when pesticides, plastics, solvents, and other chemicals have been leaving residues in our air, water, and soil. Laboratory studies show that many of these chemicals may cause breast tumors, hasten their growth, or leave mammary glands more vulnerable to carcinogens.
A recent study published by the American Cancer Society found that synthetic chemicals have likely played a role in rising breast cancer rates around the world over the last half-century. Researchers identified 216 chemicals, most of them found in everyday products like pesticides, detergents, cosmetics, and dyes, that caused increased mammary tumors in animals. Most of these substances “mimic” naturally occurring hormones once inside the body because the body doesn’t know the difference between its own real hormones and other introduced chemicals.
Only 1 in 10 women who develop breast cancer inherits a defective gene from their parents, which means that in 90 percent of cases studied, external agents, like synthetic chemicals, contributed to the development of cancer.
Take steps to change your exposure to harmful chemicals! Each one of us needs to protect our health and make our homes as safe from environmental toxins as possible.
Choose natural cleaning products like baking soda and white vinegar. Commercial cleaning products often contain hazardous chemicals. Clean with microfiber cloths. These cloths are untreated, reusable cloths that lift dirt, grease, and dust. Avoid using toilet bowl deodorizers that contain paradichlorobenzene, the same carcinogen often found in mothballs. Try lemon juice, borax, baking soda, and white vinegar instead.
Choose home furnishings made from natural fibers. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDE’s, are flame retardants that are also endocrine disruptors which affect thyroid hormones. Choose carpeting, bedding, cushions, and upholstered furniture made from wool, cotton, and hemp, which are naturally flame retardant.
Pesticides and other toxins often enter your home with dust and dirt on the bottom of your shoes. Place a doormat on the outside of each entrance to your home. Volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s, are major sources of air pollution, both indoors and out. They are found in building materials, paints, stains, and sealants, and are known to cause cancer in humans.
Carpets can harbor pesticides, allergens, such as mold, flame retardants, and other chemicals. Choose a vacuum cleaner with a strong suction, and a multi-layered bag for dust collection to prevent dust from recycling into the air.
Open windows every once in a while to ventilate your home. Vent your gas stove, broiler, grill, or fireplace to the outdoors. Take daily measures to improve your indoor air quality. Avoid air fresheners and scented products. “Scent” or “fragrance” as an ingredient usually signifies the presence of phthalates, which are endocrine disrupting compounds.
Use mint and lavender to ward off household pests like mice, and sprinkle red chili powder, paprika, dried peppermint, peppermint essential oil, or borax where ants enter your home.
Take a new approach to life! Educate yourself about toxic chemcials so you can make healthy decisions for you and your family!
For more information on chemicals and breast cancer, please watch Maid Brigade's "Breast Cancer and Home Cleaning Products" video at