Tag Archives: Cancer-causing Chemicals

Red and Processed Meats Increase Colon Cancer Risk

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Red meat_bunch-of-steak-801548-mIf you eat a lot of red meat or processed meat, you may decide to think twice before the next time you partake. This is because research has shown that a diet high in red and processed meats is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. This post offers you a focused and updated outlook on some of the reasons for this association.

So, what are we talking about? Red meats include beef, pork, veal, and lamb. Processed meats include hot dogs, bologna, sausages, salami, ham, bacon, hamburger patties, and tinned meat. Colon cancer has been found to be more common among people who have a high daily intake of these kinds of meats. A high intake is considered a daily consumption of red and processed meats that exceeds 5 ounces (about 140 grams).

Why are red and processed meats linked to colon cancer?

1.  Cancer-promoting compounds in the meat:

The harmful substances in these meats are mainly animal-based proteins and heme. Animal-based protein may amplify the expression and activation of cancer-causing genes. Furthermore, red meat, but not veggies, contains heme iron that causes oxidative stress and facilitates the production of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds, which have been linked to cancer of various organs including the colon.

2.  Cancer-causing agents generated from cooking the meat:

Cooking meat at high temperatures (> 400oF) or on an open flame produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); both are potent carcinogens. These chemicals have toxic effects on the genes and on the metabolism of the large intestine.

3.  Cancer-causing aspects in digesting the meat:

Undigested proteins in the large intestine can increase bacterial fermentation and produce bacterial metabolites, disrupting a balanced and healthy colon cell lining and causing inflammation. The resulting damage to the large intestine significantly increases colon cancer risk.

There still remains much to be learned about exactly how red and processed meat consumption causes colon cancer, but there is some good news for meat lovers, which is that some meats are not linked to colon cancer. These include poultry meats (e.g., chicken, duck, and turkey) and fish (especially salmon, which may even reduce colon cancer risk). As for red meat, it is suggested that bison could be a healthier alternative to other red meat.


Reference: Kim E, Coelho D, Blachier F. Review of the association between meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. Nutr Res. 2013;33:983-94.

Image credit: By koosswans

Thoughts on the Gulf Oil Spill: from the Seafood We Eat to the Air We Breathe

Before-After-Clean Pelican_4609844828_d1462e89e2_mIf you’ve followed the news about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast for the past month and half, if you’ve seen the tragic images of oil-soaked or oil-coated animals, or learned of the climbing toll of dead and injured birds and marine animals, you’re probably concerned about how much threat this oil disaster poses to our health. Although a few experts claim its toxicity is minor to humans, such advice does little to ease public worries and fears.

Good news: The initial testing of water showed negligible contamination, and the government tried hard to stop the seafood from Gulf regions from becoming distributed into the marketplace.

Anticipated news: Clean-up status? More testing results? Health risks to the public primarily stem from contaminated seafood and inhaled airborne oil toxins. Because hurricane season is approaching, the concern is that oil hazards carried by winds and ocean currents could threaten widespread regions along adjacent shorelines or estuaries.

Bad news: The impact of spill will last years in terms of environmental, economic, and public health consequences.

The truth: The seriousness of long-term health effects on people is inconclusive at this point. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), airborne toxins after an oil spill include toluene, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — all of which are known carcinogens.

What’s the connection with cancer risks?
Crude oil contains a mixture of hundreds of different hydrocarbons, other organic and inorganic, as well as toxic substances. Some of them are carcinogens (i.e., cancer-causing substances), from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzene to tar and more. Others cause neurological and reproductive disorders, as well as skin and lung illnesses. Today, let’s just focus on one of them — Benzene. It is known to cause cancer in humans, particularly leukemia.

What is benzene?
Benzene is a colorless, aromatic, highly flammable liquid. It evaporates into air very quickly and dissolves in water slightly. Benzene is used widely in the U.S. (one of the top 20 chemicals for production volume) as a building block for plastics, rubber, resins, nylon and synthetic fabrics, and as a solvent in printing, paints, dyes, detergents, dry cleaning, and pesticides.

What are the sources of benzene in our daily lives?
- The air at gas stations, since gasoline fumes contain relatively high levels of benzene.
- The air emitted from burning coal and oil, and motor vehicle exhaust.
- Cigarette smoke, since benzene is a natural part of tobacco smoke.
- Indoor air from products containing benzene (e.g., glues, paints, detergents, furniture wax).
- Occupational exposure — people working in industries that make or use benzene.

The takeaway message: The impact of health hazards from Gulf oil spill might be minor to populations residing far from the tainted shorelines. But you don’t need to be exposed to a disaster to become exposed to any harmful chemicals released from it. Some of the same carcinogens, such as benzene, occur in our everyday environments, whether you live in New Orleans or Seattle, Florida or Alaska. Become aware of the chemicals you run into on a daily basis.

Tip to share: Air pollution is a reality, whether we’re discussing outdoor or indoor environments; that’s why an air purifier is so essential! I’ve personally benefited from it. Use air purifiers in any space where you spend a significant amount of time, especially for pregnant women, those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory disorders, and those with a weakened immune system.

What’s your thought?

Photo:  Before and after cleaning of the Gulf oiled pelican — credit to International Bird Rescue Research Center

Anatomy of Canned Foods: There’s More Than Just Food

Canned food_3711818475_26f94af1c7_mDo you have a variety of canned foods stocked in your pantry and/or refrigerator?  Spring cleaning is the time to get rid of them and keep them out of both your pantry and body for good. Nowadays the variety of canned foods ranges from drinks, juice, soups, fruits and vegetables, to fish, meat, and whole chicken. Although canned foods are convenient and inexpensive, they pose specific hazards to your health.

Potential health hazards, particularly cancer risks

Let’s take a peek inside the can:

1. The chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) has been used for years in can liners, other than clear plastic bottles. BPA has been linked to serious health problems such as reproductive abnormalities, diabetes, heart disease, and increased risks for breast and prostate cancer. According to Consumer Reports, “the latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods we tested contain some BPA. …We even found the chemical in some products in cans that were labeled ‘BPA-free’.” (Read the full article here)

Here is the catch: It’s important to know that just because a canned food is organic doesn’t mean it is sold in a BPA-free can. And just because a can is labeled “BPA-Free,” doesn’t mean it has been proven no BPA exists in the can/food.

2. Preservatives and additives are used in canned foods. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are widely used as preservatives or stabilizers. Yes, they are antioxidants, and add to a food’s shelf life. Still, they pose certain cancer risks. BHA is a possible human carcinogen. BHT may react with other ingested substances, causing the formation of carcinogens. Both BHA and BHT are toxic to the liver and kidneys.

3. Canned foods are processed foods, typically altered from their natural state for convenience and for certain safety reasons. For instance, sodium nitrite is used to preserve color and flavor of meat products. Processed meats carry nitrates and nitrites. They combine with stomach acids and chemicals in foods to form carcinogens. Regular consumption of processed meats is associated with various types of cancer, including lung, colon, esophagus, and liver. Additionally, food companies often use coal tar products (known carcinogens) for coloring and flavoring.

4. Other ingredients (such as salt, sugar/refined sugar, soda) are also found in canned foods. While these products have not been shown to cause cancer directly, they may increase the risk of obesity. Obesity contributes to 20 percent of cancer deaths in women and 14 percent in men. In addition, high intake of salt or refined sugar is also associated with cancer of the breast and upper digestive tract.

Because children are much more susceptible to any toxins, it is especially important to make sure the food you feed them and the containers and bottles you use to feed them are safe.

The bottom line

When it comes to your health, follow this ABC:

Avoid canned food
Best Buy is fresh food
Consider frozen food

What’s your thought about canned foods? If you like this post, please share it.

Photo Credit: by Srinath TV

Plastics, Potentials, Protection

200px-Recycle001.svgCertain plastic containers and bottles have been linked to cancer risk. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that a biologically active chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) is released from polycarbonate bottles into the bottle content after simulated normal use. BPA can be released when the plastic item is washed, heated, and/or re-used. This impacts adults as well as children.

To protect yourself from serious health problems and cancer risks associated with exposure to BPA in plastic containers/bottles, we previously provided some information and tips in our website and blog. We offer more related topics for your interest:

Fist, get to know your plastics. The number inside the universal recycling symbol (with three chasing arrows) simply represents the type of plastic being used. For those curious, if you want to explore the chemical structures of these items, go here.

Second, be wise with plastics. Sort out what to use and what to avoid. Noticeably, research suggests that cancer is linked to plastic packaging. With spring cleaning upon us, put some effort into de-cluttering these potential health hazards.

Finally, protect the safety of others and the earth. There are different kinds of recycling symbols, and Recycling Symbols Made Easy has clearly illustrated them.

Caution: Not all plastics are recyclable. Please call your local municipal authority to find out what kind of items gets recycled. Cancer-causing particles can also be found in the air we breathe. Remember we are responsible for our environment.

What’s your thought on plastics?

Picture credit: en.wikipedia.org

The Dirt on Household Cleaners: Hazardous or Beneficial?

Are you ready for the Spring Cleaning? What cleaning products do you use to make your home clean and sparkle? Without realizing it, people have put health hazards in their homes while using many popular cleaners. Additionally, they may use spray bottles with these potentially toxic chemicals that go into the air they breathe. With tiny droplets and residue, the risks are substantially increased from asthma to cancer.

What’s hiding in those “cleaning agents”?

Toxic ingredients in household cleaning products contain carcinogens, i.e., cancer-causing chemicals, in addition to endocrine disrupters and neurotoxins. Several carcinogens, classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), are commonly found in household cleaners. Here are some examples:

A carpet cleaner may contain perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen.
A paint stripper may contain methylene chloride, listed as a possible human carcinogen.
Moth balls and moth crystals contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, listed as a possible human carcinogen.
Laundry detergents may contain trisodium nitrilotriacetate (NTA), listed as a possible human carcinogen.

Other known carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, and carbon tetrachloride are also present in household cleaning products. (Learn more about their cancer-causing properties in this in-depth article “Eliminate Cancerous Roots in Our Homes”)

The ugly truth is that it often takes years and decades to develop cancer, through continual exposure to hazardous chemicals or even possibly long after chronic exposure. It’s such a sad consequence, given the fact that, with the right knowledge, we can control the exposure and avoid cancer risks discussed here.

What paths do these toxins travel?

1. They can remain on any surface you’ve cleaned.
2. They can enter your body via inhalation, contact, or possible ingestion.
3. For a pregnant woman, these chemicals or toxins can migrate through her own body into that of her baby, where they can damage the developing brain or other organs. As a result, a baby could be born with a defect or illness.
4. They can cycle back into your home. Although you may feel safe after watching the used chemicals disappear down the drain or toilet, it is possible for them to leach back into the tap water systems.

The point is — Even if the amounts are tiny, they can build up over time, contaminating the water we use to drink or cook, shower in, and wash our clothes and dishes. So, make sure what you’re using at home is safe, not just convenient. Think before you pour any chemicals down the drain.

More importantly, take action to protect yourself and your loved ones. Go through your household cleaners, such as bathroom disinfectants, glass cleaners, drain cleaners, oven cleaners, dish detergents, garden pesticides, paints, paint strippers, stain removers, furniture polish, detergents, degreasers, and even flea powders. Check to see if any toxic and cancerous ingredients are present, and safely eliminate them.

Check our website for options.

New 2010 Spring Cleaning Checklist

Pink Maglonia_130867807_415e2784d9_mSpring is fast approaching and with it, the need for spring cleaning. We get the job done by going room by room, closet by closet, putting winter clothes away, throwing away or donating what we feel we no longer need, and maybe doing a few extra chores. While it’s a tradition to follow the above agenda, this guide will not only help you freshen up your home, but also help you maximize physical and mental health benefits.

As you go through your home, taking the following measures helps reduce your risk to potential health hazards.

1. Eliminate household cleaners and pesticides as much as possible, because their ingredients contain cancer-causing chemicals (i.e., carcinogens). Although some toxic chemicals cause serious illnesses in addition to cancer, much of their long-term effects on human health remain unknown.

2. Go through all the plastic toys, food packaging, bottles, containers, supplies and materials, and toss those that are potentially harmful. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic often contains additives such as lead and phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to male reproductive problems and cancer. How do you know what to toss? One way you can tell if a product is made with PVC is to look for the number “3″ inside or the letter “V” underneath the universal recycling symbol. Remembering this little rhyme may also help: “4, 5, 1 and 2; all the rest are bad for you.”

3. Remove anything that has a strong chemical odor. For example, odor released from vinyl has a “chemical” smell to it.  Items like shower curtains and liners, placemats and table linens, packaging for personal or travel accessories often contains vinyl.

4. Get ride of any plastic container or bottle with the number 7 inside the universal recycling symbol on the bottom, because it most likely contains BPA. Also another rule of thumb is to recylce those items that are heavily scratched.

5. Don’t forget to eliminate other not-so-obvious items that contain BPA including:
- Useless or unusable CDs
- Expired credit cards or other plastics
- Recycled paper-made books or magazines
- Receipts printed from gas station machines or similar auto-machines that are not needed for your records.

6. Limit canned food. First, if it contains meat, processed meat may increase your cancer risk. Second, the lining of canned food contains BPA. So, reduce your intake of canned foods, eat fresh or frozen foods instead.

7. Eliminate the foods that contain high content of Trans Fats. They’re really bad for your heart and your body.

8. Check out the labels of personal care products (for example, nail polish). The FDA requires that phthalates be listed unless they are an ingredient in fragrances. Phthalates are used in some nail polishes to reduce cracking. Choose personal-care products that do not contain synthetic fragrances.

9. Improve the air you breathe by checking radon levels, quitting smoking, and using an air purifier. Blue flower_2478841847_794283941d_m

10. Clear your mind! When things go wrong, it’s quite common to have negative thoughts, little voices, and emotions. Too much of this clutters the mind, then the brain doesn’t have enough space for positive thoughts. Even worse, you can end up depressed. Changing perspective can help. Spring cleaning is about removing dirt and getting rid of clutter. Do it for your mind, too. Free more space for positive and creative thoughts.

Well, these projects will add more work to your traditional spring cleaning. Yet these tasks are important since they could make substantial differences in the quality of your living space. So get all your family motivated and involved. Start walking through your home in search of stuff you don’t need, particularly the items mentioned above. The rewards?  A truly clean, fresh  home, an organized life, and physical and mental health benefits.

What’s your plan for spring cleaning? If you like this post, please share it.

Photo credit: Pink magnolia by Muffet; Blue macro by spisharam