A first-of-its kind project involving 174 scientists from 28 countries found that some common things we interact with daily could potentially interact to cause cancer. (Photo: Getty Images)
You’ve heard about the potential dangers of exposure to certain chemicals like BPA and triclosan, and you probably go out of your way to avoid them when you can.
But now, a first-of-its-kind review published in the journal Carcinogensis from scientists around the world has found that there are more potentially carcinogenic chemicals that should be on your radar.
A large team of 174 scientists from 28 countries analyzed published, peer-reviewed papers and determined that average daily exposure to some chemicals in products you come into contact with daily might increase your risk of developing cancer.
The chemicals aren’t bad on their own, per se, but scientists discovered that they may interact with other chemicals that are unavoidable in our environment to produce a reaction that can increase your cancer risk.
“The results are not conclusive but suggest that additional basic science research is extremely important to fully understand how common chemicals, to which we are exposed at very low doses, can have a cumulative effect on cellular and molecular processes that may ultimately increase risk of some types of cancer,” study co-author Rita Nahta, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmacology at the Emory University School of Medicine tells Yahoo Health.
In their research, the scientists came up with a list of chemicals that are not considered to cause cancer in humans and reviewed their effects against a list of mechanisms that are important for the development of cancer. They then found that 37 of those chemicals work in a way that can cause cancer at everyday levels of exposure with other chemicals in our environment.
“These are in food products, food packaging, pesticides, herbicides (which may end up in meats), household cleaners…they’re everywhere,” Leroy Lowe, president of the Canadian non-profit Getting To Know Cancer, which organized this task force of scientists, tells Yahoo Health. “If these particular chemicals that you’re exposed to end up in your blood, that’s a concerning problem.”
While the scientists stress that it’s too early to draw conclusions, they did flag these chemicals in particular as ones that need additional research to determine whether they actually are safe for us at the very low levels we’re currently exposed to:
We’re exposed to acrolein by inhaling smoke or car exhaust. It’s also formed when animal or vegetable fats and oils are heated at high temperatures.
Alloy particles (tungsten/nickel/ cobalt)
These are used in a range of products, from jewelry to ceramic glazes.
This is an herbicide that’s found in many foods and food products.
BPA is commonly found in plastic bottles and can liners, but many companies are moving away from its use.
Butyltins (such as tributyltin)
These chemicals can be found in some disinfectants.
Cadmium is often used in the production of batteries.
These form a part of the materials in some products like baseball bats, golf clubs, and car parts.
Many foods and food products contain traces of this insecticide.
Copper has many uses but its compounds can show up in fungicides and wood preservatives.
Cotinine is found in tobacco and tobacco products, but we may also be exposed to it from second-hand smoke.
Several foods contain traces of this insecticide.
DDT has been banned in the U.S. in the 1970s, but some traces of the chemical can be found in our soil.
This insecticide is used on many fruit, nut, and vegetable crops.
This chemical commonly shows up in adhesives and printing inks.
Dichlorvos is often used as a household insecticide, but has shown up in some of our water.
Once used a growth hormone for meat, this is now used to treat incontinence in some animals.
This fungicide may be used on various plants.
This is found in a number of pesticides and may end up in food products.
This common pesticide has been linked with reduced male fertility.
This chemical is a fungicide that is commonly used on citrus fruits.
Iron shows up in a range of products, including many building materials.
Lead can be found in building construction materials, some batteries, and weights, among other things.
This chemical can be found in some fungicides.
MeHg can get into our environment when waste is burned and then end up in waterways. It can eventually show up in the fish we eat.
This pesticide is used on field crops and can show up in our fruits and vegetables.
This is commonly used to make colorless glass.
Nickel and nickel-derived compounds
These commonly show up in coins, stainless steel products, and rechargeable batteries.
This is a byproduct of combustion in car engines, but can also be used to treat heart problems.
PBDEs are flame retardants used in many plastics and foams. They’re also commonly found in indoor dust.
This slippery is often used to treated carpets in homes.
Phenobarbital is often used as an anti-seizure medication.
These are widely used as plasticizers in consumer products such as building materials, toys, food packaging, cosmetics, and medical devices, but contaminated food is considered to be our biggest source of exposure.
This chemical can show up in some fungicides.
This chemical is used as an insecticide and pesticide.
This steroid is used to promote weight gain in beef cattle and can find its way into the beef we eat.
This controversial antibacterial and antifungal agent is found in some of our soaps and detergents.
Before you panic, keep this in mind: Scientists stress that more research is needed before they can definitively say whether these chemicals cause cancer in the ways that we’re currently exposed to them.
But, Lowe says, it’s probably not a bad idea to avoid them whenever possible: “I don’t want to say that these chemicals are unsafe, but I would say that people should be careful about the kinds of products they use.”
Adds Nahta: “It is far too preliminary to draw conclusions but definitely supports the need for increased attention from the scientific community and increased research on this important topic.”
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