7 Common Carcinogens You Should Be Avoiding

Content Producer
View as:|
1 of 8

Some studies have found that exposure to chemicals and radiation can increase risk of breast cancer. While the link is not completely understood, a growing body of evidence suggests that chemicals in the environment play a role in altering our biological processes. So it's helpful to know which carcinogens—chemicals that directly cause cancer—you may be encountering on a daily basis.

Gas and diesel

Gasoline typically contains benzene—a widely-used chemical that has been shown to contribute to cancer. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that diesel fumes are carcinogenic. Reduce your exposure by pumping gas carefully to avoid spills, by choosing gas stations with vapor recovery systems that capture fumes and by avoiding skin contact with gas. You can also support fuel efficiency regulations.


Studies have shown that cooking fumes contain tars and chemical compounds that can cause cancer. Cooked meat, in particular, contains a chemical called PhIP, which may promote cancer growth. Higher cooking temperatures in general can create chemical reactions that may produce dangerous DNA-damaging compounds. Cook more safely by using a ventilation fan and by limiting consumption of charred foods.

Dry cleaners

Most professional dry cleaners use a liquid called perchloroethylene, or PERC, as their main chemical cleaning solvent. Although the chemical can remove stains and dirt from all common types of fabrics, PERC can be toxic to both humans and the environment. Find a dry cleaner that doesn’t use PERC or other solvents and ask for “wet cleaning.”

Water filters

Recent studies have determined that disinfection byproducts, commonly found in drinking water, may contain carcinogenic chemicals that are linked to breast cancer. Different types of filtration systems clear out different types and levels of contaminants, but experts recommend using a solid block carbon filter, which removes harmful contaminants without blocking  healthful minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

Rugs and fabrics

ou may want to avoid rugs or fabrics in clothing, bed sheets and car seats that are described as one of the following: stain resistant, static resistant, permanent press, wrinkle-free, stain proof or moth proof. Many of these fabrics are treated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that may cause cancer. Instead, look for natural fibers such as cotton, linen or wool, and purchase organic fabrics and clothing.


Some furniture retailers have begun to discontinue manufacturing furniture containing flame retardants, as a response to studies that have found a link between its chemicals and cancer. Avoid buying furniture that contains flame retardants in its fabric or its foam. Choose instead furniture with naturally flame-resistant fabrics, such as wool, polyester or leather.


The potentially dangerous chemicals added to furniture, rugs and fabrics are found not only in the objects, but also chemicals may accumulate in house dust. Maintain clean air in your home by removing shoes at the door, cleaning dust from  surfaces with a damp rag or mop and by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which traps small particles rather than recirculating them back into the air.