Home is where the heart is. Or so they say. Unfortunately, our hearts must jostle for space with all the other countless things that take up space in our homes. And, too often, those products contain ingredients which are harmful to our health. The recent surge in awareness of carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) is an encouraging sign that people are more proactive in taking care of their own health. However, we still have a long way to go as companies continue to include these harmful items in their products. It may shock you to find that many of the products you use in your daily life contain carcinogens, but it’s best to remember that education is the first step in bringing about change. Read on to find out which substances are in your home and what you can do to avoid them.  


What is it? Formaldehyde is added to several products and it is a known human carcinogen. It is commonly used as a preservative. Why is it in my house? You can look for it on product labels, but you’ll probably never find it. This is because of a particularly sneaky class of preservatives, known as formaldehyde-releasers. When added to the formula of your favourite face care product, these formaldehyde-releasers undergo a series of chemical reactions and release formaldehyde into the formula, which helps in extending the shelf-life of the product. When examining the ingredient list on a product, look out for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, hydroxymethylglycinate, or Bronopol. Where can I find it? The most commonly-found item on this list, formaldehyde can be found in your favourite mascara or liquid foundation and even in the hand or body soap you use to wash up with.  


What is it? Glyphosate was added to the list of known human carcinogens as recently as March 2015. It is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, so its inclusion on this list has been a hot debate topic within the agriculture industry. Why is it in my house? Since it is so widespread in the agriculture business as an herbicide, there’s a very high chance that glyphosate has already made its way to your dinner table and beyond. Where can I find it? Fruits, vegetables and almost anything grown via mainstream farming methods. But, there’s another, much more sensitive place, that you might find it – feminine hygiene products. If the ones you use aren’t made specifically with organic cotton, chances are that it contains some trace amounts of glyphosate. In fact, going organic might be the only solution for this one.  


What is it? A known human carcinogen, which is a commonly used ingredient in fragrances. Why is it in my house? The main problem is that styrene doesn’t show up on the ingredient list of most fragrances, since the constitution of these fragrances is proprietary to the manufacturer. However, we know that styrene is present in most fragrances because IFRA (International Fragrance Association) releases a list of what ingredients their members are using and styrene is on that list. Where can I find it? In almost every ‘parfum’ or fragrance out there. The only way to avoid this, until regulations are altered, is to buy only products which disclose every ingredient used in manufacturing the fragrance.  


What is it? This is another ingredient which pops up unexpected just like formaldehyde. It is a known human carcinogen. Why is it in my house? The good news is that manufacturers aren’t wilfully adding this into the products you use, but it’s one of those things that pop up because of the manufacturing process. And since benzene is so widely used in a host of different industries, it finds its way into our homes quite easily. Where can I find it? Benzene is found in crude oil and is a major part of gasoline. Therefore, it's used to make plastics and it also turns up in a whole host of other household products, such as solvents, rubber cement, adhesives, and degreasers. Fortunately, manufacturers have begun to bow to public pressure over the inclusion of this chemical, so just look out for No-Benzene claims on the packaging to steer clear of it.

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