Reduce Cancer Risk: Eliminate Chemical Carcinogens from Your Home

Reduce your family’s cancer risk by learning about—and eliminating—chemical carcinogens commonly found in our homes.

| May/June 2013

  • Commercial cleaning products are often filled with hazardous chemicals. Instead, use natural cleaners made of safe ingredients.
    Photo By iStock
  • Room & Board ( offers many American-made furnishings made of responsibly sourced materials. Pictured here: Odin Leather Sofa; Boden Chair and Ottoman in Vick Fabric; Michigan-made Herman Miller Collection Nelson Bench; and handwoven, 100 percent wool Bokila Rug.
    Photo Courtesy Room & Board

All of us would like to live in a clean, healthy environment without having to worry about exposure to toxic chemicals. But the sad truth is that most of us are exposed to such toxins on a daily basis—and often within our own homes. 

A surprising number of chemicals commonly found in our homes is associated with serious health risks, including an increased risk of developing cancer. Some of these substances are frustratingly hard to get rid of, while others are relatively easy to banish from our homes once we know they’re there. Here’s a brief guide to getting some of the major offenders out of the house and making your home a healthier place.

Clear Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution can be a real problem—many common pollutants contribute to the risk of developing cancer, particularly lung cancer. However, many of these common concerns are also relatively easy to identify and eliminate or neutralize. You can find more information on all the indoor air quality issues below by visiting the EPA’s Indoor Air Subject Index.

No Smoking. Don’t overlook the obvious: Tobacco smoke—the leading cause of lung cancer—is a carcinogen, as is secondhand smoke. If someone in your home smokes, ask them to take it outside.

Test for Radon. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that sometimes accumulates in homes, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Fortunately, it’s relatively simple and inexpensive to test for radon using DIY kits available online or at the hardware store, and if you discover your home has a problem, it’s not difficult to fix.

Inspect and Repair Heating Equipment. While it often flies under the radar, faulty or improperly installed heating equipment can cause all kinds of problems. The leading concern is carbon monoxide leakage, but we also want to avoid breathing particulates, which can contain radon or benzopyrene, both carcinogens. Problems with combustion gases and particles can be caused by anything that burns wood or fossil fuels, including furnaces, woodstoves and fireplaces. Experts recommend having heating systems serviced annually by a professional to keep them operating safely and efficiently. A thorough energy audit will also address issues with combustion safety.

5/24/2013 1:43:01 AM

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