15 WORST Environmental Toxins Linked To Increased Cancer Risk (Avoid!)

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15 WORST Environmental Toxins Linked To Increased Cancer Risk
15 WORST Environmental Toxins Linked To Increased Cancer Risk (Avoid!) Graphic © healthpowerboost.com.
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Here’s my full (free) report on 15 of the worst environmental toxins to avoid / limit exposure to! This is an in-depth, carefully researched, high quality report with over 60 scientific references. Please link to this page and hit the share button!

1 – Pesticides (Various)

As the demand for food grows with every additional person to the world’s population, so does the need for improved agricultural practices to increase the yield of fruits, vegetables, and livestock. The use of pesticides on fruit and vegetables crops is extremely widespread. While pesticide use is legally allowed by the FDA, the risk of disease and death are still present in pesticide-treated crops. It’s no secret; the WHO encourages the public to improve their knowledge on how pesticides can harm their health and the health of their loved ones. [1] We have presented several of the most well known and controversial pesticides in the chapters below this one.

Pesticide drift and its implications should be understood. Areas with pesticide-treated crops place the people who live around them at risk for acquiring cancer (and other diseases!) because the chemicals “sprayed” on the crops and the soil can drift through the air and end up in people’s homes, schools, places of work and more. A study in 2011 found that people who lived and worked in agricultural areas had the highest risk for pesticide illnesses caused by off-target pesticide drift. In fact, 92% of almost 3,000 cases experienced low-severity illness, with half of the cases getting exposed at their workplace. 14 percent of these cases were children. [2]

Recent publications have now linked exposure to pesticides to increased risk of breast cancer, seen in a publication in 2013 by El-Zaemey, Heyworth, and Fritschi. Even more worrying are publications that show an increased risk for childhood cancers like leukemia, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and cancers that affect the brain, colorectum, and testes. [3][4][5]

When choosing your home, workplace, and the school your child goes to, don’t forget to study weather patterns to learn the prevailing wind direction in your locality, and research nearby commercial areas and farms that can expose yourself and your family to an increased risk for cancer through pesticide drift.

2 – Glyphosate aka. Roundup

One of the world’s most common herbicides is Glyphosate, sold under the trade name “Roundup”, which is sold not only consumers as a general herbicide but in great quantities to farmers who grow large-scale GMO “Roundup Ready” crops.

These plants have been genetically modified to be resistant to roundup, which has a broad-spectrum plant killing action. Thus roundup can be sprayed from a plane onto GMO crop fields, killing everything except the GMO plants – including microorganisms that transport minerals from the soil to the plants. Of course, this ecological destruction is absolute madness and is turning once-biodiverse countryside into a wasteland – but that doesn’t stop them because there are billions of dollars on the table and they always have the old playing card of “feeding the world” at the ready.

Roundup (or Glyphosate, its chemical name) is a weed killer because it stunts the growth of weeds by altering protein production. Because it is the second most popular pesticide in the US, it can be found everywhere – from produce at the local supermarket and even inside your own garage or garden shed. This is problematic because recent studies have shown strong links between Roundup exposure and specific types of cancer. [6]

In a now-famous statement in March 2015, the IARC declared glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” and have fought ongoing battles against manufacturers to maintain their classification. The State of California has now successfully defended its legal right to label Roundup with this information.

Studies have shown clear links between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans. Eriksson, et. al. in 2008 confirmed the association between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and glyphosate exposure. Furthermore, over a review of 25 years’ worth of research published in 2014, Schinasi and Leon found that glyphosate exposure was significantly linked to B-cell lymphoma. [7][8][9]

Sadly, glyphosate is everywhere. A study funded by the US Geological Survey found glyphosate traces in the majority of rivers, streams, and other bodies of water. The chemical was also detected in 70 percent of rainwater samples. [10]

Despite these clear warnings, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the IARC declaration was supported by insufficient evidence and that glyphosate posed very minimal dangers to human health. One has to wonder who they are actually protecting: We cannot discredit the studies and IARC’s classification of the carcinogenicity of this chemical!

The affair went to court in one of the largest cases of its kind. The result? It was determined that Monsanto (Bayer) had known of the cancer risks and failed to warn consumers.

In June 2020, Monsanto agreed to pay $10.9 Billion in settlements in a huge court case where thousands of plaintiffs argued that exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) – and that Monsanto had known about these effects but deliberately ommitted to inform the public. [11]

In the meantime, it is wise to eat organic, which has been demonstrated, unsurprisingly, to reduce pesticide levels in the body.

3 – Atrazine

Atrazine is a widely used pesticide, popularly used in the United States on corn, pineapple, and sugarcane crops. However, it is classified as a Restricted Use Pesticide because of its ability to contaminate groundwater and on account of its links to cancer.

Animal studies have linked atrazine use to an increased risk for cancer, with the IARC classifying it as group 3 – with sufficient animal evidence but insufficient human evidence. [12] With the growing spotlight on the adverse health effects of cancer, atrazine use on plants – especially edible crops – is becoming more controversial. [13]

There have been no significant studies that directly link atrazine exposure with cancer occurrence in humans. Despite that, there are studies that show an increase in the risk for specific types of cancer, such as thyroid and prostate cancer, among people who have been exposed to atrazine. An AHS study in 2011 actually found that farmers who used atrazine were at higher risk for thyroid cancer. In animals, atrazine exposure caused the growth of mammary tumors because they affected the animal’s hormones. [14]

In 2015, Albanito, et. al. published a study whose results showed that atrazine had an effect on hormones in the body that caused the growth and spread of cancer cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts. The same results were mimicked in a 2016 study by Hu, et. al., wherein atrazine was seen to promote the proliferation of prostate cancer cells, causing malignant tumors to grow in size and multiply in number. [15][16]

When buying produce, be sure to avoid ones that have had pesticide sprayed on them. Go organic instead.

4 – Chlordane

Chlordane is an insecticide that was first introduced to the public in 1948. However, due to numerous reports of toxicities in humans, its use as a pesticide was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States in 1988.

Now that might seem like it is so long in the past that there is nothing to worry about any more, but that would be incorrect: Chlordane is an extremely persistent chemical that can take decades to break down. In 2016 the EPA reported that it can STILL end up in food grown on American soil, because farmlands that were treated with chlordane may still contain the chemical. [17]

Different studies over the years have shown the disastrous health effects of chlordane use, [17] with documented health problems including child cancers, neuroblastoma, leukemia, chronic infections, bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis, infertility, neurological disorders, aggression and depression. Chlordane is considered carcinogenic, with numerous studies showing how it can cause cancer in animals, though further testing on humans still needs to be done. The WHO reports that chlordane toxicity can cause headaches, dizziness, problems with vision and coordination, irritability, weakness, muscle spasms, and even seizures. [18]

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a part of the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to chlordane is very dangerous because it is rapidly absorbed through the skin, leading to systemic toxicity. Ingestion or inhalation of chlordane are similarly, if not more, dangerous, leading to acute and possibly fatal toxic effects. [19]

It gets worse: Because chlordane (originally developed by Monsanto) is so long-lasting, it was used in large quantities as a soil treatment under and around homes to manage termites. That means if your house was built anytime before April 1988 and in you are in a region where there are termites, your home may have been treated with this dangerous chemical. Chlordane has contaminated the air of over 30 million USA homes by continuing to off-gas up from sub-floor areas (remember, much of the air in your home originates in the sub-floor / ground level areas).

House dust samples collected between 1998 and 2001 found chlordane residue in an astonishing 38% of homes and DDT (banned in 1972) in 70%! [20] It is highly likely that many people are still getting a low level, ongoing exposure to these poisons even now and simply have no idea. [21] This is still a widely underreported health issue – even today – and honestly what we have shown you here is just the tip of the iceberg; as a quick read of reference [20] will show you.

Do NOT assume that the government will save you from this! They are notoriously slow-acting and you should not be a human guinea-pig while enough data accumulates to indicate that action needs to be taken.

Most realtors are completely unaware of these toxicity issues also and may not share your concerns – but remember you have the right to inspect any home you are buying and you should (I am not a lawyer) be able to order these tests during the inspection period. You may not be able to find out from official records if your home was treated with toxic chemicals but soil and HVAC filter tests should be done to ascertain whether chlordane and other chemicals are still in or around your home. Further info on this testing:

Be vigilant in choosing the food as well as with the due diligence on the home you’ll be living in. Go organic with fruits and vegetables, and make sure that the meat you buy was fed with organic grass as well!

5 – Lead Paint

The use of lead paint has been restricted for many years – but much still persists in older homes; typically covered with further layers of paint. While we have largely addressed the presence of lead in toys and everyday items, we forget how we are most commonly exposed to it. Minute amounts of lead are considered toxic, and dust / flakes from old paint present an ongoing health hazard.

In Australia, paint containing up to 50% lead was used before 1970. In 1970 the allowable level was reduced to 1%, 1992 down to 0.25% and now down to 0.1% (0.2% for zinc-based paints). [22]

In the USA, paint that contained high lead levels was only banned by the US federal government in 1978, when the allowable lead content was set at 0.006%. It was then reduced right down to 0.0009% in 2009.

In the EU, paint that contained lead was only restricted in 1992 – so if your home (or even furniture!) was painted before that, paint containing high levels of lead was very likely used. [23] Lead chromate continues to be used in yellow road markings.

One way people become exposed to lead is when walls (or other places or items) that have been painted over with new paint (lead free!) become damaged, exposing the lead paint underneath. This lead “dust” can become inhaled or even ingested. Another obvious cause of significant ingestion is if old lead paint is sanded and the dust / fumes breathed in. [23][24]

Various studies have shown how lead paint can cause cancer in humans. In 2015, a study by Arain, et. al. revealed that one of the risk factors identified for oral cancer (chewing tobacco) was actually related to lead ingestion. The study found that subjects who chewed smokeless tobacco products and were later diagnosed with oral cancer actually had high lead levels in their blood. Similar results were found in two studies that focused on lung cancer. Cheung in 2013 concluded that lead was directly correlated with increased risks for cancer (in general) as well as lung cancer mortality. McElvenny, et. al. in 2015 found an increased risk for lung cancer from high exposure to lead and high lead levels in blood. [25][26][27]

To prevent exposing yourself and your family to lead paint, do research on your home! Lead paint test kits are available (Amazon link) – and if you discover or even suspect that your home and /or furniture were painted with lead paint, have it professionally removed using correct safety procedures rather than attempt it yourself.

6 – Wood Dust

Did you know that wood dust – yes, dust from created from working with wood – can cause cancer? When wood is cut and made into furniture, trinkets, and other similar objects, tiny particles of wood dust / “sawdust” become airborne. These small dust particles then become easily inhaled and can deposit in the airways, which can lead to various health problems – cancer included. The United States Department of Labor, specifically the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, warns workers of the hazards of sanding and cutting wood. [28]

In a review of literature conducted by the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC), consistent strong evidence indicated a causative link between wood dust inhalation and sinonasal cancer, although the studies do not specify the exact mechanism wherein wood dust leads to the formation of cancer cells. Studies also showed a link between wood dust and nasopharyngeal cancer, although the results were less significant compared to sinonasal cancer. The IARC review suggests that the wood dust particles cause chronic irritation and inflammation in the nasal passages, which can lead to cell changes and mutations, and eventually the formation of cancer cells. They concluded that there is sufficient evidence to say that wood dust is definitely carcinogenic to humans, causing nasal, paranasal, and nasopharyngeal cancer. [29]

If you work with wood or are exposed to wood dust, make sure you wear appropriate protective gear, specifically the correctly rated dust respirators for your application. Before you apply to a job or take on a project that involves wood processing, make sure that your employer enforces correct safety measures in your work area. Adequate ventilation is a must if you decide to work with wood as well.

7 – Benzene (Gas Stations)

Benzene is a substance typically used in a variety of industrial processes as a solvent. It is also a natural component of crude oil and is added to gasoline to increase the octane rating. However, benzene is a known human carcinogen and exposure to it is a significant global health problem. It was acknowledged as early as 1948 that “the only absolutely safe concentration of benzene is zero”! Even tiny amounts are harmful and it has been established that benzene can cause several potentially fatal diseases, including leukemia. [30]

If you smell gasoline, you are breathing benzene.

Exposure to benzene can happen in a variety of ways – most notably from inhalation of gasoline fumes, exhaust, and cigarette smoke. According to the American Cancer Society, research has mainly focused on the link between benzene and blood cancers (leukemia). [31]

Carlos-Wallace, et. al. in 2016 published a study that concluded benzene’s associations with childhood leukemia, when children were exposed to benzene (either in the womb or in early childhood). [32] Another study by Linet, et. al. in 2015 focused on how benzene also raised the risk for other types of cancer, specifically myeloid, lymphoid and lung cancers. [33] These are just a few of the recent studies that are examples of why the IARC has declared benzene as carcinogenic to humans. [34]

Simple tips to reduce your exposure to gas station benzene: – don’t top off your tank! When you fill your tank up with gas, a common practice is to add the last “squirt” of fuel into the tank after the nozzle shuts off. However, this actually causes more benzene to be released into the air – in addition to risking gasoline spillage, potentially exposing yourself, gas station attendants and vehicle occupants to benzene. It is also advisable to stand further away from the fueling nozzle, ideally upwind, and attempt to minimize the amount you breathe in. In the United States, gas pumps typically have a trigger with a latch that enables you to start fueling and then walk away from the pump (a good idea!) However in the United Kingdom for example, petrol pumps do not have these triggers, meaning motorists are forced to stand holding the pump for the duration of fueling, thus obviously increasing the amount breathed in.

Benzene may also be ingested via contaminated water: The remarkable Berkey Water Filter is one that addresses this problem, removing benzene and other harmful chemicals from the water to over 99.99%.

8 – Nickel

The human population is continually exposed to low levels of nickel – from the air, water, food, tobacco smoke, or from items made with nickel. Nickel is a naturally-occurring element, silvery-white in color and is alloyed (mixed) with other metals to create a wide variety of coins, jewelry, and items made with stainless steel.

The greatest exposure to nickel comes from industrial processes that handle it, which is why people who work in factories that use nickel should be wary of potential severe allergic reactions, and damage to the respiratory and immune systems. [35]

There are various, recent studies that show the dangers of nickel exposure to humans. Chiou, et. al. in 2015 concluded that nickel is not only a risk factor for lung cancer, but also contributes to the metastasis or spread of the cancer cells to other tissues and organs. Another study published in the year found that one of the reasons why chewing tobacco contributed to oral cancer was because of the high nickel content. [36][37]

One of the most significant recent studies was done in a small town in China in 2015 and focused on the effects of environmental exposure to nickel. The study found that exposure to nickel in the soil caused increased risk for cancers of the colon, gastric, kidney, and liver – higher in males than females. This study is an important one to consider worldwide: If your home, work, or school is near places where nickel naturally occurs, or near factories that produce items with nickel, then you are most likely at higher risk for cancer. [38]

Protect yourself from nickel exposure by doing environmental research on where you live. Also you can (admittedly with some difficulty) limit your use of items that have been made with or fortified with nickel, including stainless steel cookware, cupro-nickel coins, or jewelry that is not specified as nickel-free. This is sadly quite a hassle as ascertaining the metal content of the various metallic items in our daily use is quite a challenge – and most of them are not nickel free.

9 – Paint

#5 on this list was lead paint, which is linked to leukemia and other cancers. However, paint in general has also been linked to cancer because of the numerous chemicals that it is composed of. Fresh paint emits fumes, which is why newly painted houses are not considered completely safe to live in until they have been aired out. [39]

A study on painters by Guha, et. al. in 2010 focused on why the occupation was listed by the IARC as “carcinogenic to humans”. Their results supported the IARC, concluding that people who were highly exposed to paint were at risk for lung cancer. They took into consideration exposure to environmental agents like asbestos and lifestyle choices like smoking and still ended up with a causal relationship between paint exposure and lung cancer. The study suspected various carcinogens to be responsible for this relationship, such as chlorinated solvents, chromium compounds, and cadmium compounds. [40]

A study focusing on home paint actually found links between childhood leukemia and home paint exposure. The study concluded that exposure to home paint while in the womb or early on in life contributed to an increased risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. [41]

Today, there are various “organic” and “odorless” paints in the market, popular because they are pesticide, herbicide, solvent, “low-VOC” or (ideally) “VOC-free”. If you can’t avoid painting, it’s better to have professionals do the work for you, using the correct respirators, and allow ample time for the paint to dry and settle before moving in the newly painted house or using the painted item. Be wary of your children and pets as well! Paint can easily chip and become accidentally ingested as well so be mindful of painted items or places in your home!

As a further note – home renovation in general is a known route of exposure to numerous toxic chemicals and dusts. If undertaking major work on a home, it is highly advisable to relocate until the work is done.

10 – Passive Smoke

Passive smoking (a.k.a. breathing secondhand smoke) is bad for your health. Studies have shown how secondhand smoke is a known carcinogen, causing lung cancer in people who have never smoked a cigarette in their life. Research done by the American Cancer Society and the IARC have found links between passive smoking and cancers of the larynx, pharynx, nasal sinuses, brain, bladder, breast, rectum, and stomach. In children, passive smoke could possibly play a role in increasing the risk for lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer, and brain tumors. [42][43]

The Women’s Health Initiative conducted a study in 2015 that concluded both active and passive smoking contributed to a significant increase in lung cancer risk, particularly small-cell and squamous-cell carcinoma, among postmenopausal women.[44] The longer the exposure to passive smoke, the greater the risk for lung cancer. Li, et. al. in 2015 found a strong link between passive smoking and an increased risk for breast cancer.[45] With hundreds of studies showing how dangerous passive smoking is, the IARC has declared secondhand tobacco smoke as a known carcinogen to humans.

Secondhand smoke is a combination of “mainstream” and “sidestream” smoke. Mainstream smoke is the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Sidestream smoke comes from the lit tobacco – and is considerably more toxic because it doesn’t pass through the filter of the cigarette. Both kinds of smoke contain toxic chemicals that build up over time in the body, increasing the risk for respiratory disease and cancer. If you want to avoid increasing your risk for lung cancer, don’t smoke and stay away from places where people are smoking.

11 – Cadmium

Cadmium is a naturally-occurring metal found in the Earth’s crust, but is typically extracted as a byproduct of the production of various metals such as zinc, copper, and lead. While cadmium exposure is highest during industrial processes, consumers may be exposed to it through batteries (83%), cigarette smoking, pigments, coatings, platings, plastic stabilizers, alloys, and cadmium telluride solar cells, the second most common type in global use. A spotlight has been placed on cadmium and its very strong association with breast cancer. Cadmium exposure has been linked to breast, lung, and pancreatic cancer to name a few. [46]

The US Department of Labor calls cadmium a toxic chemical, wherein workers who are directly exposed to it have the highest risk of acquiring cancers that target the heart, kidneys, intestines, brain, reproductive organs, and lungs. The US Department of Health, IARC, and EPA have all declared cadmium as a known human carcinogen. [46][47]

– Nawrot, et. al. (2015) concluded that (at the very least) low-level environmental exposure to cadmium is a significant risk factor for lung cancer. [48]

– A Chinese study by Peng, et. al. (2015) focused on cadmium and breast cancer, reporting that not only does cadmium exposure increase the risk for the development of breast cancer but also promotes the development of the cancer into advanced states. [49]

– Chen, et. al. (2015) found a link between pancreatic cancer in men and cadmium exposure. The researchers suggest further study into why the risk was elevated for men but not for women. [50]

There are plenty of studies that share similar results as these three. Not only do we have to worry about our environmental exposure to cadmium, we should limit our exposure to consumer products that have it or have been exposed to it. Dispose of old batteries promptly and correctly and don’t smoke. There are also areas which have high cadmium in the soil; eating crops grown in these areas causes cadmium ingestion, especially in the people local to that area; consider learning where those places are and avoiding food that was grown there. Examples given are the Jinzu and Kakehashi river basins in Japan. [51]

12 – Arsenic

If you are a fan of suspense or murder mysteries, you will be familiar with arsenic poisoning. Arsenic is commonplace and even small doses can be lethal. Also, drinking water contaminated with arsenic can expose us to a higher risk of cancer.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2016 focused on the link between arsenic exposure through contaminated drinking well-water and bladder cancer. The researchers investigated the cause of elevated bladder cancer mortality in New England and found that the risk went up as water intake increased. Arsenic found its way into the water because drinking wells were dug during a time when arsenical pesticide use was rampant. [52]

Similar results were found linking arsenic and bladder cancer in a study done in Chile, emphasizing that early exposure to arsenic could increase the risk for bladder cancer in adulthood. [53]

Heck, et. al. (2014) concluded that a pregnant mother’s exposure to arsenic and childhood environmental exposure increased the risk for leukemia. [54] With 16,000 American children being diagnosed with cancer each year, we should be very cautious about the role arsenic plays in how cancerous genetic mutations happen.

When choosing your home, a clean source of water should be a priority. We drink water every day; if our drinking water source is contaminated, we are willingly putting dangerous chemicals that increase our risk for cancer into our body.

More than 99.9% of Arsenic is removed by the Berkey Water Filter.

13 – Fiberglass

Since the carcinogenicity of asbestos was firmly established and its use restricted, the popularity of fiberglass/glass wool has skyrocketed. Instead of using asbestos as an insulating and protective agent, glass wool fibers are packed together tightly to create fiberglass and this is placed inside of attics, sub-floors and walls. Because glass wool is highly versatile, it can be used in a variety of places and adjusted to fit specific applications including pipe insulation and in soundproofing. However, recent studies have caused glass wool to be classified as a possible carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), specifically as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.

The NTP clarifies that not all glass wool is carcinogenic, but glass wool that is inhalable and stays in the lungs long enough to cause damage (characterized as biopersistent) is. Rapisarda, et. al. in 2015 concluded that inhaled glass fibers damaged cells through oxidative stress and caused genotoxicity, or damage at the genetic level. Genotoxicity can cause mutations that lead to the development of cancer in the lungs. In fact, studies have been done on glass fiber workers, assessing their risk for acquiring lung cancer. Shannon, et. al. found that workers in glass fiber manufacturing exhibited increases in lung cancer incidence. While these studies are not enough to conclusively label glass wool or fiberglass as a known-carcinogen, they are enough for the public to be wary of a potential increase in cancer risk upon exposure. [55][56][57]

When you are choosing your home or having it built, be careful of the building materials used. You can even go green in terms of insulation – you can use shredded denim, sheep’s wool, or similar items.

If you are working with fiberglass, it is imperative to use a good quality respirator. Limit your exposure to glass wool and consider HEPA air purification for the home.

14 – Air Pollution

When you live in the city, avoiding air pollution can be difficult. With the steady stream of exhaust from overworked vehicles, factories, and even cigarettes, the air in many cities is notoriously toxic. Air pollution does not only harm the environment, it harms humans too: There are several studies that link consistent exposure to air pollution to several types of cancer.

There have been two significant studies recently published on air pollution and cancer. The least surprising cancer that has been linked to air pollution is lung cancer. Guo, et. al. in 2016 published a study wherein there was a significant increased risk of lung cancer with increasing air pollution. The researchers focused on a Chinese population exposed to ambient air pollution and concluded that control measures were needed to reduce air pollution and therefore lower lung cancer incidence. [58]

In 2015, Hystad, et. al. published as study linking breast cancer incidence among Canadian women and exposure to air pollution from traffic. The researchers found positive associations between breast cancer incidence and all three measures of nitrous oxide exposure (mainly found in car exhaust). [59]

When choosing your home, the best (healthiest) option is still away from the city. Fresher air can be found in the countryside, and with it a reduced risk for cancer. If you can compromise, choose a home that is not immediately in the city center but close to public transportation if you commute to work or school. And then of course there is air purification…

15 – Diesel Exhaust

In a world where roads connect every major city and town, our exposure to car exhaust – specifically diesel exhaust – has risen exponentially in the past several decades. The World Health Organization reports that the number of registered vehicles in the world between increased over 16% 2010 and 2013! Motor vehicles are one of the major contributors to air pollution and according to recent studies, exposure to diesel exhaust can cause an increase in cancer risk. [60]

Diesel exhaust is a mix of different gases created from the combustion of diesel fuel in a car engine. People who spent a long time on the road or in close proximity to traffic experience the highest exposure. The United States Department of Labor states that workers exposed to diesel exhaust can experience eye and nose irritation, headaches, nausea, and even lung cancer. [61]

In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared diesel exhaust a known human carcinogen based on different studies that link exposure to it with lung cancer. [62] There are several recent studies that will try to refute this claim (be wary of studies that are backed by oil and fuel companies!) but the evidence is clear: exposing yourself to diesel exhaust causes significant increases in your risk for cancer.

Vermeulen, et. al. in 2014 concluded that common diesel engine exhaust levels in the workplace and outdoors creates lifetime risks of lung cancer in both the occupation and general population. [63] According to this study, three occupations – two trucking jobs and one mining job – lead to drastic increases in lifetime exposure to diesel engine exhaust or DEE, thereby increasing the risk for lung cancer.

On a genetic level, Okubo, Hosaka, and Nakae (2015) found that diesel exhaust caused severe oxidative stress in the body, causing cell toxicity in alveolar lung tissue. Cell toxicity can lead to cancer. When it comes to bladder cancer, the results only limited evidence of increased risk; the researchers suggested further studies to get more concrete results. [63][64[65]

Latifovic, et. al. in 2015 linked occupation exposure to diesel exhaust with an increased risk of bladder cancer. [66] One of the latest studies was by Kachuri, et. al. in 2016, wherein workplace exposure to diesel exhaust was linked with high risks for colorectal cancer in men. [67]

If you spend a lot of time on the road, take whatever steps you can to minimize your exposure. People who rack up the most miles, such as cross-country truck drivers, delivery drivers and cab drivers. Exposure to DEE can also happen if you commute and of course if you ride a bicycle in traffic. Look for a vehicle with a cabin air filter. Effective in-car air filtration and the judicious use of ‘recirc’ may reduce your exposure.



[1] World Health Organization. Improving availability of information about human exposure to pesticides. https://web.archive.org/web/20170707015025/https://who.int/ipcs/poisons/pesticides/en/

[2] Lee SJ, Mehler L, et al. (2011). Acute Pesticide Illnesses Associated with Off-Target Pesticide Drift from Agricultural Applications: 11 States, 1998-2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3237344/

[3] El-Zaemey S, Heyworth J, & Fritschi L. (2013). Noticing pesticide spray drift from agricultural pesticide application areas and breast cancer: a case-control study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24892153/

[4] Zahm SH & Ward MH. (1998). Pesticides and childhood cancer. https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1533072/

[5] Carozza SE, Li B, et al. (2009). Agricultural pesticides and risk of childhood cancers. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18675586/

[6] Grossman E. (2015). What Do We Really Know About Roundup Weed Killer? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/150422-glyphosate-roundup-herbicide-weeds

[7] IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. (2015). https://www.iarc.who.int/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/MonographVolume112-1.pdf

[8] Eriksson M, Hardell L, et al. (2008). Pesticide exposure as risk factor for non-Hodgkin lymphoma including histopathological subgroup analysis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18623080/

[9] Schinasi L & Leon M. (2014). Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Occupational Exposure to Agricultural Pesticide Chemical Groups and Active Ingredients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025008/

[10] Battaglin W. (2014). Glyphosate and Its Degradation Product AMPA Occur Frequently and Widely in U.S. Soils, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Precipitation. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jawr.12159

[11] Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit

[12] Atrazine. IARC Monographs. https://web.archive.org/web/20170926113017/https://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Publications/techrep42/TR42-19.pdf

[13] Pesticide Management Education Program. Atrazine. https://web.archive.org/web/20180301161906/http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/24d-captan/atrazine-ext.html

[14] National Cancer Institute. Agricultural Health Study. https://web.archive.org/web/20170728010035/https://cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/ahs-fact-sheet

[15] Hu K, Tian Y, et al. (2016). Atrazine promotes RM1 prostate cancer cell proliferation by activating STAT3 signaling. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26984284/

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