Cleaning products and your breast cancer risk – what you need to know

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and around 150 women are diagnosed with it every day. We are now able to diagnose breast cancer in men and in 2017, 390 men were diagnosed with breast cancer too. Overall, this means that 15% of all newly diagnosed cancers are breast cancer so everyone needs to be aware of their risk.

There are lots of risks you can’t change such as getting older or inherited genes but there are some that we have more influence over.

What are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

One of the big risk factors that you may have heard of is Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s). Chemicals that disrupt hormone function can have substantial and sometimes permanent impacts on our health. Due to the nature of the body’s endocrine system, effects can occur with very little exposure, particularly if they happen before birth or during early life.

EDCs are chemicals made outside of the body that can block, mimic or otherwise disrupt normal hormone signals. They are usually synthetic or man-made chemicals that are found in a variety of products including plastics, pesticides, cosmetics, food, cleaners, toys, clothing, paints, medical equipment, cleaning products, furniture, furnishings, and electronics.

Source: Collaborative on Health & the Environment, 2021.

EDCs enter the human body from contaminated food, water, and air. We also absorb them from personal care products through our skin and via exposure to soil or dust. Some EDCs remain in the environment for many years and can build up in our bodies, others do not, but because of constant exposure are always present. Because of this, research reveals numerous EDCs in most people who are tested, including new-borns. EDCs have a wide array of effects on humans, our pets and wildlife. Effects of these chemicals include reduced reproductive ability, changes to secondary sex characteristics, certain cancers, delayed cognitive development, altered response to stress, increased accumulation of fat and changes in sensitivity to insulin. A whole host of serious side effects that we want to avoid.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in food

EDC’s in food can be found everywhere – mainly as pesticide residues. Pesticides are designed to be toxic and they are used on food crops, garden weeds and in the home to kill pests and weeds. Residues can remain in our food, run off into water supplies and sprays can be inhaled. Many pesticides have been classified as carcinogenic and our exposure to these affects our breast cancer risk. Eating as many certified organic foods as you can is a great way to reduce your exposure to pesticides and EDC’s.

Can we avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals in cleaning products?

Because household products are traditionally made up of powerful synthetic ingredients, they contain a lot of EDC’s! Conventional cleaning products contain a toxic cocktail of chemicals that include triclosan, triclocarban and many other EDC’s. Artificial fragrances containing synthetic parfum are another important source of EDC’s and should be avoided. Fragrance names like ‘meadow flowers’ or ‘fig and almond’ often indicate that man-made chemicals are being used. Spotting toxic chemicals in cleaning products in the UK can be very difficult as manufacturers do not have to be specific and include all the ingredients on labels – there are no laws that mean companies must do this. There are so many chemicals to avoid it can be overwhelming but have a look at the Greenscents No nasties Guarantee here where most of the offenders are listed.

The best approach is to look for household and laundry products certified by well recognised organisations such as The Soil Association in the UK. This is the only way you can be sure that all the ingredients are listed on the label and the products do not contain EDC’s.

Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) has produced a helpful guide to reducing toxins in your environment. You can download it here.

Don’t trust manufacturers’ green claims. Use products that are certified by an independent third party you can trust and according to a publicly available environmental standard you can understand” WECF, 2010

Thankfully, Greenscents products are all certified organic and do not increase our risk of breast cancer. Can you say this of all your laundry and household products?

Wear it Pink for life-saving research and life-changing care

Wear it Pink Day’ on 22 October is super important this year after the disruption of Covid-19. Breast Cancer Now estimate that thousands of people are living with undiagnosed breast cancer in the UK because of the pandemic. Supporting this charity means that more research can be commissioned, and more people can be supported. For everyone affected by breast cancer this year – let’s wear it pink!

Further Reading

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