The Environmental Working Group, an industry watchdog organization that regularly releases reports on the safety of everything from produce to processed foods and personal care products, has just released a list of the most potent cancer-causing chemicals, in its well-known “Dirty Dozen” list style.
According to the organization’s research, most children are born with over 200 chemicals already in their systems, a result of the onslaught of environmental toxins now considered commonplace. These environmental toxins may be impossible to completely avoid, but this list can help consumers drastically reduce exposure for both longterm and short term health.
“Scientists are only beginning to investigate how certain chemicals may interact to contribute to cancer development,” wrote the report authors. “But given that we live in a sea of chemicals, it makes sense to begin reducing exposures to ones we know are bad actors.”
Chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), found on cash register receipts, the lining of aluminum cans, and in plastic containers, topped the list. According to EWG, BPA can be avoided by opting for fresh foods that come in glass or waxed cardboard containers. Other chemicals, such as the widely used pesticide atrazine are found in drinking water and can only be avoided by drinking carbon filtered or reverse osmosis water.
Additionally, organophosphate, a widely used insecticide that targets the nervous system of insects, also made the list. It can be avoided by choosing organic food. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is what’s known as an endocrine disruptor that’s used in plastic to make it soft and flexible. Prior to 2006, it was also used as an ingredient in nail polish. Exposing men to DBP can increase their incidence of testicular cancer. Avoiding personal care products that contain the ingredient as well as PVC plastics is the easiest way to reduce your exposure.
More obvious culprits like lead, which harms the nervous system as well as other major organ systems were also included in the list. Lead has also been linked to lower IQs, miscarriages, kidney damage, and hormone disruption. Lead is found in old paint and drinking water. Not surprisingly, mercury, a heavy metal found in large fish like tuna and swordfish, was also listed. It’s a potent neurotoxin that’s especially problematic for pregnant women and small children. Mercury exposure can be detrimental to the nervous, immune, and digestive systems, and it can also cause damage to the lung and kidneys. The list also included other known toxins including PFCs, phthalates, and triclosan.
The list is the first of its kind from EWG highlighting why these chemicals are harmful, as well as how to avoid them.