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World Environment Day: Your everyday products may emit harmful toxins giving you cancer and more

Everyday products that we use and also the air we breathe has harmful toxins that can have an adverse effect on your health. @Shutterstock

As we get ready to observe World Environment Day on June 5, it is time to acquaint ourselves with some of the toxins that we live with on a daily basis.

We are surrounded by toxins and chemicals. Everyday products that we use and also the air we breathe has harmful toxins that can have an adverse effect on your health. The food we eat, the water we drink, the products and energy we consume all contain harmful products. Beauty products, common household cleaners, carpets, furniture, mattresses and dust all have some level of toxicity. As we get ready to observe World Environment Day on June 5, it is time to acquaint ourselves with some of these toxins that we live with on a daily basis. Some of the common pollutants are lead, mercury, radon, formaldehyde, benzene and cadmium. Some man-made toxins have also found their way to this list. These are BPA, phthalates and pesticides. These can lead many chronic conditions like cancer, act as endocrine disruptors and cause organ failure.

Here, we take a look at a few health risks of common environmental toxins.

ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS

These include both natural and man-made toxins. It affects the endocrine system. This leads to developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune defects. These toxins mainly mimic the estrogen hormone. It is especially dangerous for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Even low exposure to such toxins can cause obesity, infertility, prostate and breast cancers, infertility, early onset of puberty and lower testosterone levels and sperm production. The industrially produced compounds bisphenol A (BPA), pesticides and phthalates are among the most dangerous endocrine disruptors.

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Source: Some plastic bottles and containers, food can liners, toys, cosmetics and even detergents, bottle tops and water supply pipes, commercially grown foods and cosmetics.

Be safe: Minimize use of plastic containers and avoid microwaving food in plastic containers. Avoid canned foods and shop for BPA free baby bottles and toys. Wash fruits and vegetables properly before eating or cooking as pesticides can cause neuro-developmental problems. Use cosmetics that use natural ingredients.

CARCINOGENS

There are numerous chemicals that can cause cancer in humans after prolonged exposure. Mesothelioma, a kind of lung cancer, is one example. You may get this cancer after more than 30 years of asbestos exposure. Radon, formaldehyde and benzene are the major environmental toxins that cause cancer.

Radon

This is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas that forms from the natural decay of uranium or thorium found in nearly all soils. It can move up through the ground and into your home through cracks in floors, walls, and foundations.

Risk: Lung cancer is the result of radon exposure.

Be safe: Get your house air and water checked for radon. It is simple and inexpensive.

Formaldehyde

This is a colourless and flammable chemical used in building materials and the manufacture of many household products. It occurs naturally in the environment and is produced by by the metabolic processes of almost all living organisms. It is present in pressed-wood products like particleboard and plywood, disinfectants, glues and cigarette smoke.

Risk: Nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia are very common after formaldehyde exposure.

Be safe: Ensure proper ventilation of your home to limit formaldehyde exposure and use air conditioners and humidifiers.

Benzene

This is again a colourless liquid that evaporates quickly and is found in crude oil. It is present in tobacco smoke, car exhaust, pesticides, synthetic fibres, plastics, inks, oils and detergents.

Risk: It can cause aplastic anemia, bone marrow abnormalities, and leukemia.

Be safe: To reduce benzene exposure, avoid cigarette smoke and use detergents without added fragrance. Plants in the house can also help.

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