MammAlive’s Environmental Tips for Breast Health


The picture above is part of a mural entitled, Who Holds the Mirror? Breast Cancer, Women’s Lives and the Environment, conceived by U.S. activist educator Beth Sauerhaft. The 10-by-12 foot painting converges into the image of a single breast. The mural asks us, “When we confront breast cancer, our lives, and our environment, what do we see?”

Sauerhaft founded The Breast Cancer Oral History Action Project (BCOHAP) based in the San Francisco Bay Area to gather stories about women’s experiences with breast cancer. The multilingual stories were then illustrated by muralist Miranda Bergman: “I took the ideas and images they wanted and came up with the design of a single breast to hold all of them together.” You can learn more here

Create a Safer Environment for Yourself and Your Family

The guidelines below will help you to create a safer environment for yourself, your family, community and future generations. Do what you can and help others to do the same.

1. Read the labels of personal care products, taking care to avoid phthalates and parabens. Phthalates and parabens are endocrine disrupting compounds that have been associated with cancer, impaired fertility, and male birth defects. They are found in shampoo, hairspray, nail polish, lotion, perfume, and cosmetics. The most common phthalates are dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). Avoid cosmetics with synthetic fragrances, which include most perfumes. Use essential oils instead. Parabens are preservatives added to cosmetics, including butyl paraben, ethyl paraben, methyl paraben, and propyl paraben. Look for labels that say “phthalate and paraben-free”.

2. Avoid artificial air fresheners and other scented products. “Scent” or “fragrance” as an ingredient often signifies the presence of phthalates, which are endocrine disrupting compounds, as well as other irritating chemicals. Opt for fragrance-free products whenever possible. Choose beeswax and organic candles, which emit fewer toxins than candles made from paraffin. Select candles with cotton wicks rather than metal core wicks, which often contain lead.

3. Store acidic, oily or liquid food in glass, stainless steel or lead-free ceramic containers rather than plastic ones. Acidity, oil and liquid in food absorbs chemicals, including bisphenol A, that leach from the plastic.

4. Purchase organic foods whenever possible. Many pesticides act as endocrine disruptors and affect brain development, reproductive health and neurological function in humans. Buy organic as often as possible to reduce your family’s exposure to these toxins. Avoid fish – it contains high amounts of mercury and PCBs.  Reduce or eliminate your intake of animal protein which concentrates chemicals.

5. Use pots and pans that are steel clad, enamelled, cast iron, and avoid non-stick coatings. Avoid perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical used in manufacturing Teflon™ (as well as Gortex™, Scotchguard™, and other non-stick and stain-resistant coatings). PFOA has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals. Also avoid aluminum, as it mimics estrogen.

6. Use a solid-carbon-block water filter on your kitchen faucet to filter drinking and cooking water. This step is important if your tap water is chlorinated or may be polluted by agricultural chemicals or wastewater, such as from an upstream sewage treatment plant, or septic systems.

7. Choose natural or less toxic cleaning products, and ensure that products are fragrance-free. Baking soda and white vinegar are tried and true alternatives to many commercial cleaning products, which often contain hazardous chemicals. Avoid chlorine bleach. To whiten clothes naturally, rinse them in lemon juice and let them dry in the sunlight.

8. Select home furnishings made from natural fibres. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are commercially produced flame retardants that are used in many commercial products. They are also endocrine disruptors that affect thyroid hormones. Select carpets, carpet pads, bedding, cushions, and upholstered furniture made from natural fibres such as wool, cotton, and hemp, which are naturally flame retardant. Decline Scotchguard™ and stain-resistant treatment of furnishings and fabrics. Avoid furniture made from pressed wood or particleboard, which releases the irritant formaldehyde.

9. Take your shoes off at the door to avoid tracking pollutants into your home. Pesticides and other toxins often enter your home tracked in with dust and dirt on the bottom of your shoes. To minimize the spread of these pollutants, place a doormat on the outside of each entrance to your home and a rug on the inside of each entryway. Remove outdoor shoes upon entry and ask your guests to do the same.

10. Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting. Carcinogens such as brominated fire retardants tend to collect in dust and carpeting. Instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, use area rugs—ideally, ones made from natural materials—that you can take outside to air and clean.

11. Use building materials, blinds, flooring, and furniture made from wood, metal, or natural fabric. Avoid using PVC in siding, window frames, blinds, or furniture. Choose to paint rather than wallpaper your walls.

12. Choose building materials, paints, stains, and sealants that are identified as “low VOC” or “no VOC.” VOCs—volatile organic compounds—are major sources of air pollution, both indoors and out, and are found in many building materials and products. Many VOCs are known to cause cancer in animals and humans.

13. Choose electronic equipment that does not contain PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers. These endocrine disruptors are commercially produced flame retardants that are often added to polyurethane foam, various plastics, drapes, carpets, furniture and electronics equipment.

14. Control household pests without resorting to pesticides. Seal the holes through which pests enter your home and control them by using borax or sticky traps that do not contain pesticides, even if they are plant-based, such as rotenone. Use mint and lavender to ward off mice and sprinkle red chili powder, paprika, dried peppermint, diatomaceous earth, peppermint essential oil, powdered soap, or borax where ants enter your home.

15. Fight weeds without using herbicides. Instead, prevent weeds by planting groundcover on open spaces and control weeds by pulling them out, spraying them with vinegar, or coating them with soapy water.

16. Choose toys and baby items that have no polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, phthalates or bisphenol A. Vinyl, identified with the recycling symbol 3 or V, requires the addition of plasticizers such as phthalates, hardeners, such as bisphenol A and stabilizers such as lead and cadmium. These additives leach out during normal use. Untreated and unpainted wooden toys and untreated cloth toys are safe alternatives.

Share this postShare on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Email this to someone