1. Your shower curtain
- Contains: PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and VOC (volatile organic compounds)
- Use instead: hemp, linen, birch, or cotton shower curtains
In 2008, American scientists requested that all shower curtains containing PVCs be banned from stores. Although these curtains are no longer sold, if you still have one in your bathroom, it likely leaked toxic, cancerous chemicals. Another culprit? The shower liner, which can emit 108 chemicals into the air.
2. Styrofoam cups
- Contains: styrene
- Use instead: paper or glass cups
Styrene is the main ingredient in Styrofoam products. In 2014, it was officially labeled a suspected carcinogen. It’s also found in everyday products like various plastics and your refrigerator. The best way to avoid styrene? Stop purchasing Styrofoam products.
3. Books on your bookshelf
Ethylene oxide is a chemical used to sterilize and fumigate old books. When you bring these books into your home, you risk exposing your family to cancerous chemicals. Ethylene oxide is also used to sterilize medical equipment and food manufacturing supplies. It poses the biggest risk to those who actually use it, but it can linger on products like antique books.
4. Granite countertops
- Use instead: quartz countertops
Radon, a gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer, can be emitted from granite counters, which led researchers to question whether granite should be allowed in homes. Only a small fraction of countertops tested have radon levels higher than what’s deemed “safe,” according to WebMD. But if you hope to eliminate your risk, go with quartz instead.
- Contains: glass wool fibers
- Use instead: soy-based spray foam insulation
According to the National Toxicology Program, there is sufficient evidence that glass wool fibers found in insulation can cause cancer. But sufficient testing hasn’t been done on humans. Home improvement workers who install insulation face the highest risk of cancer.
6. Fluorescent lighting
- Contains: mercury
- Use instead: LED or halogen bulbs
Those CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs the government recommends actually could cause cancer. The bulbs contain mercury, a known carcinogen. Plus, the bulbs emit high levels of ultraviolet radiation. When the bulb’s protective layer is cracked, dangerous levels of UVA and UVB radiation can escape. This means you could get skin cancer — just from your lights.
7. Vinyl flooring
- Contains: PVC and dioxins
- Use instead: bamboo, cork, laminate, or porcelain flooring
Vinyl flooring contains PVC, a known carcinogen. Installing it in your home means exposing your family to its potential dangers. Also, dioxins, which are carcinogenic toxins, are produced during the vinyl-floor-making process. Although vinyl flooring companies have reduced the exposure to employees, homeowners with vinyl flooring are still at risk.
8. Area rugs and carpets
- Contains: formaldehyde, acetone, and flame retardants
- Use instead: all-natural wool, mohair, jute, cotton, or sisal rugs
Carpets are made with chemicals that cause cancer, like formaldehyde and acetone. Most carpets also contain carcinogenic flame retardants. Plus, that “new carpet smell” actually comes from a type of chemical connected to eye, nose, and respiratory complications.
9. Your closet
- Contains: perchloroethylene, or “perc”
- Use instead: wrinkle-free clothing
The process for dry-cleaning clothes is toxic, but most Americans aren’t aware. And when you store all your dry cleaning in a closet, the risk is greater. The chemical known as “perc” is used to dissolve stains on clothes. While it’s good at that, it’s also good at causing cancer. Look for a cleaner in your area that’s utilizing new technologies, like water-based cleaning.
10. Your comfy couch
- Contains: flame retardants
- Use instead: a couch made after 2014
In 1975, California passed a law requiring furniture to be coated in flame retardants to prevent fires caused by cigarettes. So most furniture companies coated all furniture in chemicals, no matter where it was being shipped. Later testing found that those chemicals could cause cancer.
11. Leather furniture
- Contains: chromium
- Instead: Check furniture labels and buy accordingly.
About half of all leather furniture contains a carcinogen known as chromium. Plus, the process of dying leather has been found to cause cancer, making it dangerous to factory workers. Check the labels to figure out whether or not your furniture is chromium-free.
12. Cleaning products
- Contains: carcinogens
- Use instead: chemical-free cleaners
Many household cleaning products are known carcinogens. Although they can sterilize your home, they can also leave you inhaling toxic chemicals and allow those chemicals to build up on your home’s surfaces.