Proceed with Caution

When you realize the extent to which we live within a chemical-laden environment, it can make you paranoid. We don’t want to paralyze you, but we do want you to become more aware of the potential impact of long-term exposure to a variety of chemicals on your health. It is likely that most environmental toxins will never be conclusively tied to cancer, but the list of those that have been is growing and we have no reason to believe it will not continue to grow as we become more adept at tracing chemicals and studying their effects on the human body over time. Unfortunately, regulation of harmful in the US chemicals remains excessively permissive, prioritizing profits over health.

Some Recent Good News

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the first enforceable drinking water standards to limit exposure to PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in the US water system. PFAS chemicals are man-made chemicals used since the 1940s in various products due to their durable molecular bonds. PFAS, produced by companies like Dupont and 3M, are known as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment and accumulate in water, food, and air as well as our bodies. Long-term exposure to PFAS has been linked to serious health issues, including reproductive issues, Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity, cancer, and liver damage, to name a few. The new EPA rule targets six PFAS chemicals, requiring public water systems to monitor and remove them if levels exceed safety thresholds, with a five-year timeframe to comply. Although it is good news that the EPA is setting stricter limits on PFAS chemicals in our drinking water, the EPA’s new limits on PFAS in drinking water will now start to face legal challenges.

Use the Precautionary Principle

Given the lax regulation of chemicals and the reactionary approach of government regulators, it is up to the consumer to be diligent about reading labels and making healthy choices to limit exposure to chemicals and toxins. In our family, we have adopted the Precautionary Principle. Until a chemical is found to be harmless, we try not to use it. When it comes to personal care products, anything that lists on its ingredient’s “fragrance” includes chemicals that are likely to be endocrine disruptors, we put them back on the shelf and look for products that have ingredients we recognize, without the parabens or phthalates that can mimic hormones in our bodies. This better-safe-than-sorry approach is the only way in our current deregulated environment to reduce your contact with known and suspected carcinogens that are present in everything from the fire-resistant couch where you relax every evening to endocrine disruptors in the shampoo and other personal care products you use every morning.

Moving Toward Cleaner Living

Protecting yourself comes down to a simple philosophy—control what you can control, limit your exposure where you can, and then be active in your community when other environmental dangers come to light. A lot of the environmental contaminants we face are either out of our control or require legislation and activism to change. We think this work is important, but we want you to start with the choices you are making every day. What’s in your shampoo or the cleaner you use to clean your bathtub? What about the hair gel you use or the toothpaste you clean your teeth with every night before bed? We suggest starting with the simple things and making a clean sweep of your body and your house. Creating an anticancer environment begins at home and starts with what you are exposing yourself to voluntarily.

Here are some initial steps you can take to start creating an anticancer environment:

Rid Your House of Toxic Chemicals

  • Go room to room and eliminate potentially hazardous products as you go.
  • When you enter your house, take your shoes off at the door.
  • Use houseplants as natural air filters.
  • Opt for hardwood floors or washable rugs instead of carpeting.
  • Buy furniture that has no stain proofing or flame retardants.
  • Use paint without volatile organic compounds.
  • Buy pillows and mattresses that are toxin- free.
  • Filter your drinking water.
  • Use natural, nontoxic cleaning products (a mixture of vinegar and water is ideal).
  • Avoid any products with scent.

Limit Toxins on Your Body

  • Check the ingredients of all body products like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and deodorant. Gradually switch to less- toxic options.
  • Update your makeup with products that are free of harmful chemicals.
  • Reduce your use of chemical- laden hair dyes and artificial products for your hair.
  • Buy toxin-free laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and dish soap.

Reduce Toxins in Your Body

  • Eat organic.
  • Store food in glass rather than plastic.
  • Use food- grade stainless- steel or cast-iron cookware.
  • Use wood cutting boards.
  • Put filters on showerheads.
  • Don’t microwave food in plastic.

Interact Carefully with the Outside World

  • Keep your cell phone away from your body.
  • Use natural, nontoxic products to clean your car.
  • Air out dry cleaning before bringing into your home or closet.
  • Look for dry cleaners that use alternative, green technology.