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How to Identify and Remove Carcinogens From Your Home

Did you know that many common household products contain known or suspected carcinogens? The regulatory environment in Canada is based on the premise that a product is safe unless proven otherwise. Consequently, new chemicals are introduced into products without truly understanding the implications on our health.

The good news is, there are readily available alternatives that don’t contain potentially harmful ingredients. Here are ways you can reduce your exposure to potential carcinogens in your home.

Personal Care Products

It’s important to read labels on any product you buy, paying close attention to ingredients that are, or can react for form, potential carcinogens. These include parabens, ethanol amines (DEA, TEA, MEA), frangrance/parfum, quaternium-15, PEG, and sodium laureth sulfate. Unfortunately, most products sold at conventional drugstores contain these ingredients, so you’re better to shop at health food stores or wellness-based online retailers that have strict ingredient requirements. Download this tip sheet listing my favourite apps and guides to help you shop for healthier personal care products.

Cleaning Products

Many commercial cleaning products contain fragrances, which may include carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and asthma-inducing chemicals. Fragrance ingredients do not have to be disclosed on packaging, so it’s impossible to know which chemicals are in a specific product. Look for products with third party certifications like EcoLogo and Green Seal on the packaging, and check the product’s rating on EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. You can also try making your own cleaners from common ingredients like vinegar and baking soda – they are incredibly effective and better for you. Try these easy recipes from David Suzuki’s Queen of Green.

Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners

Avoid these products if you can as they also contain fragrance chemicals (along with hazardous indoor air pollutants). If you need something to combat static, consider adding vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine, or toss in reusable wool or plastic dryer balls instead.


Health Canada declares acceptable exposure limits of each approved pesticide used on produce, both chemical and natural. However, approval data is focused on exposure rates for direct contact with the pesticide (such as farm workers). There is little research on the safety for low-level long-term exposure (such as through diet), nor is there a review of the impact of combinations of pesticides. However, there is compelling research that pesticides from food build up in our bodies, and some of these pesticides are known or suspected carcinogens. To minimize exposure, prioritize organic food as much as possible. To help keep costs down, consider targeting at least the top 12 fruits and vegetables from EWG’s Dirty Dozen report.

It is unlikely that any one of these products will contribute to an increased cancer rate. However, given how many chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis and how many new chemicals are being introduced to the market, we don’t yet know what the cumulative impact on our health is. With some minor shifts in your shopping habits and daily routines, you can help reduce your exposure and create a healthier, greener home.

Headshot.Emma Rohmann


Emma Rohmann is founder of Green at Home. She offers personalized consulting services to help families make easy, impactful changes to make their homes healthier and greener. To find out more and check out her blog, visit