10 Common Household Items That May Cause Cancer


Every day, it seems like there is a new scary study or report on the different things that can cause cancer. And most of us try to keep ourselves safe by avoiding anything that could possibly give us cancer.

Unfortunately, that’s harder than you might think. Why? Because plenty of common household objects are known to cause cancer!

Interested in throwing these things out and leading a safer, healthier life? Here are the top household products that can cause you cancer.

Air freshener

Air fresheners are a convenient way to help your house smell nicer. And they are particularly convenient if you have a few pets around the house. Unfortunately, air fresheners are a major cancer threat!

That’s because many of these fresheners contain hazardous or toxic materials that may cause tumor growth. In fact, 12 of 14 air fresheners tested in a Natural Resources Defense Council study contained phthalates, which are linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Phthalates are not listed in a product’s ingredients label, so there’s no easy way to avoid them.

Sadly, this even includes the fresheners marked as “all-natural,” so your best bet is actually to skip air fresheners altogether.

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Non-stick cookware

Because non-stick is the most common kind of cookware, you probably have plenty of it in your kitchen. It may be that much more shocking, then, to learn what a cancer threat non-stick cookware can be.

As soon as you heat this cookware up, its non-stick coating starts breaking down. As the coating breaks down, it releases both toxic particles and fluoride-based gas into the air. Breathing in this gas can cause cancer, so you should play it safe by avoiding non-stick cookware in the future.

Cotton sheets and pillowcases

Cotton is very comfortable, but it’s also surprisingly dangerous. That’s because, according to the National Wildlife Federation, 84 million pounds of pesticides were used across more than 14 million acres of cotton in the year 2000 along with over two billion pounds of fertilizer.

Put it all together and you can see that anything made of cotton is a potential cancer risk. As much as we love cotton sheets and pillowcases, you are far safer if you switch to organic cotton, bamboo, or linen for your bedding.

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Scented candles

Earlier, we touched on the fact that most air freshening products can potentially cause cancer. Unfortunately, scented candles present a similar risk. That’s because the ingredients added to give these candles their special smell make the candle release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and formaldehyde that can cause cancer.

Fortunately, some unscented candles tend to be safer. But you should avoid paraffin candles because the petroleum in paraffin wax also poses a cancer risk. Use soy or beeswax candles to get that nice candle ambiance without petroleum byproducts.

Artificial sweetener

If you’re trying to lose weight or just live a healthier life, then using artificial sweeteners probably seems like a smart move. Sadly, though, some of the most popular artificial sweeteners can potentially cause cancer.

Aspartame, for example, has frequently been linked to skin cancer. And saccharin may cause bladder cancer. Acesulfame K, meanwhile, is both carcinogenic and dangerous to pregnant women.

The good news is that you can replace these artificial sweeteners with a natural sugar substitute such as Stevia without otherwise changing your diet.

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Polycarbonate water bottles

There is a strong environmental push to use reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic ones. But would you believe some of these reusable bottles, such as polycarbonate bottles, are actually a health risk?

That’s because plastics can leach chemicals into your water when they get hot, whether from being heated or even just left in a hot car. Polycarbonate water bottles can leach a particularly notorious chemical known as BPA (bisphenol A) that can cause cancer and a whole range of other health issues.

You can make sure to only use plastics marked BPA-free, but disposable water bottles leach other chemicals, such as antimony, which can cause lung, heart and stomach problems. Your safest move is to use a steel, glass, or ceramic container for your water bottle needs. This is safer for you and also safer for the environment; talk about a “win/win!”

Art supplies

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people begin pursuing art. After all, activities such as painting are as much a form of self-therapy as they are self-expression. However, certain art supplies are actually known to cause cancer!

That includes permanent markers, acrylic paints, solvents, and even superglue. Don’t worry, though: you don’t have to give up your artistic dreams to stay safe. Just be sure to use water-based products instead.

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Anti-dandruff shampoo

Anti-dandruff shampoos often contain ingredients that may pose a cancer risk, including the suspected carcinogen methylchloroisothiazolinone.

But the most dangerous anti-dandruff shampoos contain coal tar as their main active ingredient. Coal tar shampoos prevent dandruff by slowing bacterial growth. But unfortunately, coal tar is a known carcinogen, and is even banned in cosmetic products in the EU.

Nail polish

Nail polish is a regular part of life for countless women and more than a few men. That’s why we hated to discover that nail polish is also a possible carcinogenic threat!

It’s because the polish typically contains formaldehyde, and exposure to this increases your risk of getting cancer. On top of that, the polish also contains butyl acetate, a solvent, and ethyl methacrylate that can cause damage to both your nervous system and reproductive systems. But you can enjoy the benefits of nail polish safely as long as you use non-toxic products.

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The microwave is an interesting entry to this list. Despite years of rumors, your microwave is not going to cause you cancer through its normal operation. But the things that you heat up in the microwave may pose a cancer risk.

For example, it’s tempting just to throw that takeout container full of food in the microwave and heat everything up at once. But if the container is plastic, then heating it up can release cancer-causing chemicals into the air and into your food.

As long as you transfer your food to a glass or ceramic container and remove the plastic wrap before heating, it should be perfectly safe to use the microwave.