Avoid These 12 Cancer Causing Chemicals


Written by: Joanne Beccarelli

According to the Environmental Working Group, there are 12 chemicals that show up in our daily lives that are cancer causing.

Now, don’t panic! You can easily and immediately  start focusing on prevention and the avoidance of these chemicals.

As a health coach, I work on the side of prevention, slowing progression and also with what lifestyle changes can contribute to getting better. While food, stressors and behavior changes are abundantly important, this discussion focuses on the chemical exposures that need to be avoided. Most fall into broad categories involving plastics, pesticides/herbicides and heavy metals.

Here Are The 12 Cancer Causing Chemicals You Need To Start Avoiding TODAY:

1. Bisphenol (BPA) – This is used to make plastics for food containers and as a lining in the material used for canned foods.

Solutions: Look for BPA-free! Buy foods in glass jars, waxed cardboard boxes or cans that specifically say ‘BPA-free.’ Avoid plastic containers marked recycling “#7” or “PC” (polycarbonate). Also, avoid taking receipts printed on thermal/BPA paper and opt for email receipts instead (most places offer this now).

2. AtrazineThis herbicide is widely used on corn, sugarcane and sorghum crops and is used on residential lawns and golf courses. Atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide contaminating drinking water.

Solutions: Buy organic corn, sugar and grain foods. Get a water filter, especially if you live in agricultural areas (use EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide for help). Avoid weed killers that contain atrazine.

3. Organophosphate Pesticides (OP) – This describes a group of insecticides and pesticides commonly used in agriculture, landscaping and public parks for mosquito or bug control. Organophosphates are neurotoxic compounds are not only carcinogens, but are also tied to ADHD and Alzheimers.

Solutions: Buy organic produce. Use the EWG Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists to guide you away from the most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

4. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) – This is an ingredient in flexible or soft plastics, including food wraps, plastic bowls, shower curtains and raincoats.

Solutions: Stop using plastic wraps and containers for food storage; switch to glass. Limit use of PVC plastics.

5. LeadA soft heavy metal that is flatout poisonous. Lead exposure is linked to nervous system problems, lowered IQ, kidney damage and hormone disruption.

Solutions: Have your water checked or get a water filter (use EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide for help). Be careful when removing old paint applied prior to 1978.

6. Mercury A liquid metal used in thermometers, other measurement devices, fluorescent lights and is found in large fish seafood. It is toxic to the brain, liver, kidneys and nervous system. Mercury exposure can create reproductive issues and is dangerous for a developing fetus.

Solutions: Avoid seafoods from large fish that have increased mercury levels from bioaccumulation through their food chain. These include tuna (fresh and canned), swordfish, bluefish, shark, marlin and mackerel. Take precautions if a fluorescent light bulb or mercury based thermometer breaks and needs to be cleaned up.

7. Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) – This group of chemicals is used to make products that resist or repel water, stains, oil, grease or heat. These include carpets and fabrics, non-stick cookware, water/oil resistant paper, nail polishes and fire-fighting foam.

Solutions: Avoid buying or applying water and stain repellents to carpets, furniture and clothes, including Teflon™ or Gore-Tex™ brand products. Eliminate non-stick pans and utensils that are teflon coated versus ceramic. Do not use microwave bagged popcorn! Select personal care products without fluoro or PTFE ingredients.

8. Phthalates These are a broad category of common industrial chemicals used to make plastics soft (vinyl), are in solvents and used as synthetic fragrances. They are associated with thyroid problems and are considered an endocrine disrupter.

Solutions: Avoid cooking or microwaving in plastics. Review personal care products for ‘fragrance’ ingredients that are not specific. Try to avoid any products made from DEHP plastic or vinyl, which may include toys, outdoor furniture, shower curtains and plastic raincoats.

9. Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP) – Part of the broad group of phthalates (#8);  a chemical that is used as an additive in PVC plastics and consumer materials. DEHPs can be released almost any time after they’re combined. They are associated with thyroid problems and are also considered an endocrine disrupter.

Solutions: See #8.

10. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) – These are chemical compounds that are used to make flame retardants, building materials, electronics, furniture, plastics and polyurethane foams. PBDEs can accumulate in blood, breast milk and fat tissues. They have hormone-disrupting effects on estrogen and thyroid hormones.

Solutions: Read labels to identify if PBDEs are present in any products that are flame retardant. Avoid any foam products made before 2005. Add hepa filters where you can at home to increase home removal/filtration, especially in air systems or vacuums.

11. Triclosan This is an antibacterial and antifungal additive in liquid soaps, personal care products and toys. Triclosan has been associated with a higher risk of food allergies and potentially disrupts hormone regulation. It may also contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Triclosan is currently under review by the FDA.

Solutions: Avoid all products labeled antibacterial, including soaps, toothbrushes, cutting boards and toys.

12. Nonylphenols These are an ingredient that is widely used in the production of dish and laundry detergents, personal care products, paints and plastics. It is known to have estrogenic effects in the body and to be harmful to embryos and newborns.

Solutions: Avoid all products that contain nonylphenol as an ingredient. Use EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for help.


Joanne Beccarelli
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Joanne Beccarelli

Holistic Health Coach, Juicing Junkie and Writer at GLAD for Health
Joanne Beccarelli is a holistic health coach, juicing junkie, writer, soon to be cookbook author and recovered emotional eater. Inspired by many great voices in the health-thru-food revolution, Joanne found her way out of hiding in shame (losing almost 100 lbs in the process) and stepped away from the corporate world. She now dedicates every day to helping others who are overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed, find awareness, fulfilment and better health.

Joanne has a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell/T. Colin Campbell Foundation, and became a Certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is also a member of American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP), and the International Association of Health Coaches (IAHC).
Joanne Beccarelli
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