Noelle Swan

Air fresheners may double breast cancer risk

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Photo Credit: Jim Mills

A new study in the medical journal Environmental Health suggests that major breast cancer risks could be coming home in grocery bags. Researchers from the Silent Spring Institute found little correlation between the use of pesticides, but instead discovered that women using air fresheners and scented cleaning products may be doubling their risk of breast cancer through exposure to mammary gland carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

“Fragrance so often comes with compounds that are endocrine disruptors, chemicals that effect hormones like estrogen which we know increases your risk factor,” warns Dr. Julia Brody, Silent Spring Institute Director and the study’s corresponding author.

She explains that once in the home, these chemicals enter the body in several ways. “They can come in through skin contact, so you have your hands in the bucket or you’re touching the chemicals. You can breath them so if you are using the product and some of it is in the air you are breathing it. In the case of air fresheners, they are always in the air. And you can also ingest them in dust. So they’re in the air but then they attach to dust particles so you accidentally ingest them.”

This comes as unwelcome news to the busy women of the 21st century who have embraced bottled mountain breezes and lavender fields as sources of comfort and household pride. Air fresheners have become so commonplace that they are no longer found solely in spray bottles but plug into the wall and pervade laundry detergents, fabric softeners, hand soaps and body washes. Dr. Brody suggests choosing simpler cleaning products, such as soap and water or vinegar and baking soda and avoiding fragrances. She hopes that this research helps “to really drive a green chemistry movement in a direction towards safer alternatives.”

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