Study lists dangerous chemicals linked to breast cancer

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Washington: Certain chemicals that are common in everyday life have been shown to cause breast cancer in lab rats and are likely to do the same in women, US researchers said today.

The paper in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives lists 17 chemicals to avoid and offers women advice on how to minimise their exposure.

They include chemicals in gasoline, diesel and other vehicle exhaust, flame retardants, stain-resistant textiles, paint removers, and disinfection byproducts in drinking water.

"The study provides a road map for breast cancer prevention by identifying high-priority chemicals that women are most commonly exposed to and demonstrates how to measure exposure," said study author Ruthann Rudel, research director of the Silent Spring Institute.

Some of the biggest sources of mammary carcinogens in the environment are benzene and butadiene, which can come from vehicle exhaust, lawn equipment, tobacco smoke and charred food. Carcinogens can also be found in drinking water, researchers said.

"Every woman in America has been exposed to chemicals that may increase her risk of getting breast cancer," said co-author Julia Brody.

Brody described the paper as the first to comprehensively list potential breast carcinogens and detail ways for experts to measure them in women's blood and urine.

The study also recommends seven ways for women to avoid these chemicals:

- Limit exposure to exhaust from vehicles or generators, don't idle your car, and use electric lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed whackers instead of gas-powered ones.

- Use a ventilation fan while cooking and limit how much burned or charred food you eat.

- Do not buy furniture with polyurethane foam, or ask for furniture that has not been treated with flame retardants.

- Avoid stain-resistant rugs, furniture and fabrics.

- If you use a dry-cleaner, find one that does not use PERC (perchloroethylene) or other solvents. Ask for "wet cleaning."

- Use a solid carbon block drinking water filter.

- Keep chemicals out of the house by taking off your shoes at the door, using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, and cleaning with wet rags and mops.

The research was funded by the Avon Foundation. The Silent Spring Institute is a 20-year-old organisation made up of scientists who focus on the environment and women's health.  

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