Sources: Web MD; Julia Body, PhD, The Silent Spring Institute; Zota, A., Environmental Health, July 20, 2010; Michael Thun, MD, VP emeritus of epidemiology, American Cancer Society; Susan Brown, Dir. Health Education, Susan G. Komen for the Cure
A recent study published in the Journal Environmental Health has, not surprisingly, been criticized strongly by Industry and their medical experts alike. A link has been suggested between the frequent use of household cleaners and increased risk for breast cancer. In particular, air fresheners and mold and mildew cleaners are most strongly linked.
None of this should be particularly surprising. From 1999 to 2004, sales of air fresheners rose nearly 30% in current dollars. The advent of air freshener candles and widespread acceptance of plug-in air fresheners has been primarily responsible.There are numerous volatile organic compounds and manufactured compounds in household cleaners. A simple whiff of them while cleaning the shower confirms this. What is surprising is that this is the first published study to make the link between these cleaning products and the increased risk of breast cancer.
But how reliable is this information? That answer is mixed. The methodology was simple. It was what is known as a “retrospective” study. Researchers asked 787 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer about their historical use of household cleaning products. 721 additional women without a breast cancer diagnosis were asked the same questions. Critics say this is not reliable and that it accentuates a concern with exposure slanting the responses. The best methodology is a prospective (forward looking) study which tracks women and their exposure to a diagnosis of breast cancer.
The researchers found a greater link between household cleaners and breast cancer than with domestic pesticide use. One reason might be that exposure indoors in a confined space is greater than applying chemicals outdoors.
Solid air fresheners, common to many homes, generated a significant amount of response. Although difficult to quantify, it appears that those who used them 7 or more times in a year had 2x the risk of breast cancer than those who never used them in their homes.
While the debate is just getting started it is a welcome one. There are a number of non-toxic organic household cleaners and companies committed to their manufacture. If you have significant concerns that the risk has not been sufficiently quantified or qualified then perhaps you should consider switching your products.
~Posted by D.M. Schwadron, Esquire