Written by: Adrienne
We’d all like to think that our home is the safest place in the world. Though there isn’t much in this world we can control, we do have a say over what occurs in our own house.
It could be, however, that danger lurks even here — and not just the risk for accidents like falling or stepping on a nail. No, I’m talking about the nasty kind of danger: the slow and steady, cancerous kind. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Most families spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, from the obvious meal preparation to taking care of homework and playing board games around the table. However, many items in your kitchen could be potential cancer-causers. Consider:
On your walls:
If you have painted walls, you could be exposing yourself and your family to harmful VOCs. These nasty chemicals can continue to off-gas for years after the paint was applied, which makes them an ongoing threat. If it’s been a while since your walls had a makeover, consider painting them with the no or low-VOC options that are on the market today.
Under your kitchen sink:
If you store chemicals under your kitchen sink like many people do, beware. Pesticides, cleaners and many other chemical products contain a smorgasbord of nasty substances, many of which have the potential to cause cancer. Use natural cleaning solutions such as vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to eliminate harsh chemicals. Try homemade pesticides and insect deterrents instead of the commercial killers.
In your cabinets:
The claim that microwaving plastic containers causes cancer is somewhat exaggerated, but is based on some truth. The FDA poses stringent regulations on any plastic manufacturer creating containers meant for the microwave because it is possible for chemicals to leach out with exposure to heat. Using BPA-free items and containers that explicitly state “Microwave Safe” should eliminate the risk. If you want to be super safe, you can always use glass containers instead.
The Living Rooms:
When you relax on the sofa or in your recliner at the end of the day, you might just be surrounded by cancer-casing agents. They can lurk anywhere, including:
In the walls and floors. Formaldehyde has been strongly linked with cancer, and can be found in some building materials. Older UFFI insulation that was popular in the 70s contains a great deal of formaldehyde, as do most pressed wood products. Fortunately, UFFI is no longer used, and many homes that had it have since had it replaced. Quality construction firms are aware of the dangers of formaldehyde and don’t typically use products that contain dangerous levels of it.
In the furniture. Fire-retardant chemicals have become popular for furniture and bed clothing. However, these chemicals are well known for their ability to cause cancer. You have to ask yourself which is the greater risk: having your furniture catch fire and burning the house down or slowly developing a potentially fatal disease over time from exposure. These chemicals can also be found in many electronics, automotive parts and even appliances.
In the air. If you use a wood-burning stove for heat and you don’t have it properly vented, you could be pouring formaldehyde into the room. Inadequate ventilation can also lead to a toxic buildup of radon, which enters the home from outside. Of course you want your home properly sealed, but don’t seal it so tight that the air becomes dangerous. Install a venting system that keeps the air circulating.
Of course you’d expect your risk for exposure to increase when you step outdoors, and for good reason. Many potential dangers exist just beyond your back door, and there isn’t much you can do about some of them. Consider:
If you live in or near a heavily polluted area, your risk of developing cancer is quite high — particularly lung cancer. The risk is so high, in fact, that the World Health Organization has added air pollution to the list of known carcinogens, right along with cigarette smoke and plutonium. Everything from daily vehicle emissions to oil spills and toxic waste can contribute to the level of air pollution.
Using commercial fertilizers, insecticides and weed-targeted herbicides is just asking for cancer to come knocking. The wide variety of chemicals used in these products is strong, even caustic at times. If you don’t develop cancer from them, you could still develop a number of other health problems, including respiratory problems and ADD.
The overwhelming majority of automotive parts and the chemicals that make them work are dangerous. In fact, just sitting in the cabin of a running car can increase your exposure to cancer-causing elements; the exhaust that contributes so heavily to air pollution comes right in. Asbestos in brake systems, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in engines and exhaust systems, and arsenic in your electrical systems and glass are all dangers.
So what can you do about it? Where’s the line between preparedness and paranoia? Well, it seems to be different for every person. You can minimize your exposure to carcinogens by paying close attention to the products you choose to use for cleaning and household maintenance. Keep your home well ventilated and make sure all food storage containers are in compliance with FDA regulations.
If you suspect building materials in your home are dangerous, consider having the house remodeled to remove them. Purchase vintage or antique furniture if you can’t find anything new without FSCs added. Store automotive parts well away from your home, and leave the vent on with a window cracked when you’re driving.
You can’t completely eliminate the presence of risk, but you can significantly reduce it. Remember, it isn’t paranoia if you know what a chemical can do and you simply don’t want it around. It’s prudent.
Adrienne is a freelance writer with a passion for prepping. Ever since she can remember, she has been interested in preparing for disaster situations; she spent a semester in Europe studying nuclear power and its potential dangers, and as a senior art major put together a video about a theoretical nuclear event. Now she loves researching and writing, both for her blog and on a few other sites. Tweet with her at @adrienneerin on Twitter.