A study published Tuesday, in the Journal of Environmental Health, suggests that using household cleaning products may contribute to an increased risk of women developing breast cancer.
The study found that using cleaners that include air fresheners and mold removers (common household products) actually doubled the risk of breast cancer in women. Specifically, solid slow-release air fresheners and anti-mold products had the biggest effect. However, products considered to be less risky (but still presented an elevated risk) included mothballs, pesticides, furniture polish and insect repellents – a surprise to many.
“Women who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had a doubled risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest reported use,” said Dr Julia Brody, author of the study. “Use of air fresheners and products for mold and mildew control were associated with increased risk.”
The link between the household cleaning agents and their contribution to breast cancer is suggested because they contain “endocrine disrupting chemicals” or “mammary gland carcinogens.”
Dr. Brody and her team of researchers asked 787 Massachusetts women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1988 and 1995 about which household cleaning products they used. They then questioned an additional 721 women without breast cancer. The women were then asked for their beliefs about the causes of breast cancer. Researchers discovered that overall, women who used a combination of cleaning products, were up to 110 per cent more likely to have developed breast cancer than those who never touched them.
However, the study’s authors warned that “recall bias” may have skewered the results. What this means is that patients who believed chemicals contributed heavily to the risk of developing breast cancer were more likely to report high use of cleaning products. As shared by Richard Sedlak, Senior Vice President of the American Cleaning Industry:
“Simply put, this research is rife with innuendo and speculation about the safety of cleaning products and their ingredients,” said in a press release. “This is all based on the most cursory look at the scientific literature and the recollection of breast cancer survivors as to the products they used 15 to 20 years ago.”
“Although the authors recognize the potential bias in their results, present conflicting findings, and have no real gauge as to the products used by the interviewees so long ago, they proceed to make unscientific assumptions on a very shaky foundation. Unfortunately, this work sheds little light on the real causes of breast cancer.”
Resources for families in Medford:
- Whole Foods Market in Medford, Oregon: Peruse their all-natural cleaning supplies
- Craft your own supplies, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative to harsh household cleaning agents, some alternatives can be found by viewing Childhood Safety 101: Safe and homemade cleaning products.