11 Unexpected Things that Cause Cancer

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2. Scented candles and air fresheners

Researchers measured levels of “volatile organic chemicals” in six houses in York, England, over the course of five days. They asked each resident to note the scented candles, air fresheners and cleaning products they used — including how often they used them. Then, they tested the air in each home. Limonene — a synthetic chemical used to create citrus smells, turned out to be the number one culprit detected.  Unsurprisingly, the houses using the most scented products tested positive for the highest amounts of limonene.

More research is needed before considering this data conclusive, but when limonene is released into the air, it reacts with ozone to create formaldehyde, which has been linked to a number of different cancers — including myeloid leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.  The dangers of synthetic scents range beyond cancer, too. Fake fragrances are linked to hormone chaos, asthma and other serious health issues.

How to avoid it: By reducing your use of scented products, you can reduce the amount of limonene (and therefore formaldehyde) exposure. Limonene isn’t the only ingredient to be weary of. Try avoiding any product that lists fragrance, parfum, phthalates, DEP, DBP or DEHP as an ingredient. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, avoiding synthetic scents is one of the main ways to help yourself.

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