Life

Your Environment May Increase Your Risk for Breast Cancer. Here’s How

A guest blog from Breast Cancer Action

Breast cancer has historically been known as a disease that only impacts "older" women. But the truth is that breast cancer is a complex disease that impacts people of all ages with varying outcomes for different communities. For example, one aggressive breast cancer subtype is more common in women younger than 40 years old, and more common in Black women.

Moreover, seventy percent of people with breast cancer have none of the known risk factors, such as late menopause, childbearing late in life, and family history of cancer. These risk factors are present in only 30 percent of breast cancer cases and there is growing scientific evidence that environmental exposures increase breast cancer risk.

As breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the U.S., breast cancer is an urgent health crisis, and to address and end the epidemic, young people need to get involved and address environmental exposures and the root causes of the disease.

Because Health spoke with Breast Cancer Action (BCAction), a nonprofit committed to stopping breast cancer before it starts, about their work in reducing our involuntary exposures to toxics in the environment that are linked with breast cancer, and about how doing so is not only an act of environmental justice, but an act of racial justice as well.


Because Health: Can you tell me about Breast Cancer Action and what unique role you play in preventing breast cancer.

Tibby Reas Hinderlie, BCAction: While the mainstream breast cancer movement remains squarely focused on pink ribbons, "awareness" campaigns, and mammography screening, it fails to address the systemic and environmental issues at the heart of this epidemic.

BCAction is an activist, education, and advocacy organization, and we understand that systemic interventions are necessary in order to address the root causes of the disease and ensure that fewer people develop breast cancer, fewer people die from breast cancer, and no community bears a disproportionate burden from this disease. Our three programmatic priorities address the lack of transparency in pink ribbon marketing culture; issues of breast cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment; and primary prevention by exposing the root causes of breast cancer in our environmental policies.

Because Health: How do environmental exposures impact breast cancer risk?

BCAction: There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that toxic chemicals may increase our risk of developing the disease. In 2010, the President's Cancer Panel reported that "the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated [and] . . . the American people—even before they are born—are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures."

There are over 85,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today. We are exposed to preservatives in our lipstick, flame retardants in our sofas, plasticizers in our water bottles, and pesticides on our fruits and vegetables, to name a few sources.

At BCAction we advocate for the precautionary principle of public health. These are guidelines for environmental decision making that call for us to determine safety based on the weight of the available evidence, because waiting for "absolute proof" is killing us. In the absence of scientific consensus, we need to adopt the highest standards, and take proactive steps to reduce our exposures to these toxins linked to increased breast cancer risk.

Because Health: How can we reduce our exposure to these environmental risks? What policies do we need to push for to ensure fewer people develop breast cancer in the future?

BCAction: We need systemic change if we are going to reduce our risk of environmental exposures, instead of relying on individual acts of risk reduction. Campaigns we've led that reflect this theory of change include our 2020 Think Before You Pink campaign, in which we demanded the Environmental Protection Agency stop environmental health rollbacks. We've also called for actions to dismantle the fossil fuel continuum, to include breaking free from plastics pollution, and we provide many educational and advocacy opportunities to phase out fossil fuel dependence.

We know that environmental justice is inextricable from health justice, and only large-scale systemic changes can address the root causes of this disease.

Because Health: You mentioned justice as part of your breast cancer work. How is breast cancer a social justice issue?

BCAction: Just as environmental factors have been largely ignored as possible risk factors for breast cancer, so have the complex issues of social inequities – political, economic and racial injustices. Disparities in breast cancer incidence, mortality, and survival are due to unequal burdens in who faces the forces of systemic oppression, institutionalized racism, and environmental injustices. That is, the extent and type of toxics we're exposed to often depends on where we live and work.

In our fact sheet Why We Must Stop Fossil Fuels, we show how chemicals like benzene, dioxins, polyaromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, and pesticides and herbicides are each produced along the fossil fuel continuum, and linked to increased breast cancer risk, and how Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately exposed to fossil fuel operations that produce these chemicals due to environmental racism.

Put simply – BIPOC communities bear the brunt of environmental exposures and are hit first and worst by chemical exposures like those produced by the fossil fuel continuum. These communities are therefore at increased risk for breast cancer due to environmental exposures. We know that racial bias in industrial zoning has led to communities of color being burdened with higher everyday exposures to pollution from fossil-fuel based industries, and that decades of racist urban planning practices have led to a greater concentration of highways, ports, and trainlines in communities of color.

Increased breast cancer risk may also be linked to the stress of racism and adverse childhood experiences, including living in segregated neighborhoods. In BCAction's recent podcast episode Stress, Racism, and the Breast Cancer Connection, former Executive Director Karuna Jaggar and Dr. Lauren Ellman discuss how chronic stress, including the toll of systemic racism, explains some of the health impacts like increased breast cancer risk—even decades later.

BCAction is currently the community partner in an ongoing study, Linking Neighborhood and Individual Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to Breast Cancer. This study seeks answers to questions like: can where you live affect your breast cancer risk? If so, how? Is there something about living in a racially segregated neighborhood that contributes to more aggressive forms of breast cancer?

Because Health: What would you like young people to know about breast cancer?

BCAction: There is nothing inevitable about breast cancer. Breast Cancer Action's badass, take-no-prisoners, truth-telling, unapologetic, passionate and intersectional methodology to addressing and ending this devastating disease draws on health justice, environmental justice, and racial justice. And we believe that together we can build a world where our lives and communities are not threatened by breast cancer, but it will take our collective action.

To join us, sign up for our mailing list or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Roundups

Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaners

products you can buy to make your bathroom squeaky clean without dangerous fumes

Nobody likes doing it, but it's got to be done! Cleaning the bathroom doesn't have to be gross or involve lots of chemicals with dangerous fumes that leave your eyes teary and your head hurting. You can use an all purpose cleaner on most surfaces in the bathroom, but sometimes you need a little extra oomph to get rid of hard water stains and mold or mildew. Every now and then we also find ourselves needing to clear the drains too! We checked out all the lists and figured out which bathroom cleaning products are the safest and effective.

In addition to these products, we also love using a simple non-toxic all purpose cleaner and have lots of DIY cleaner recipes for getting your bathroom squeaky clean.

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Healthy eating should be about more than just healthy ingredients! While there are many different specific diets, most definitions of healthy eating involve choosing fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods that provide maximal nutritional benefits. Refined grains, sugar, vegetable oils, and other unhealthy ingredients are left off the plate. But if healthy ingredients become contaminated with harmful chemicals, are they really healthy? It is time for healthy eating to incorporate more than just ingredients. Healthy eating should also include how the food is packaged and what materials the food comes into contact with while it is being processed, cooked, and stored.
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Roundups

The Best Non-Toxic Dish Soaps

Healthy, safe, and effective grease-cutting dish soap power

Updated for 2021!

Get your dishes clean without worrying about the chemicals in your dish soap. We rounded up the top 6 dish soaps without toxic chemicals or preservatives that are well-reviewed and easily available. You're welcome! We've had some questions about whether parents need a separate soap specifically for bottles and dishes. With these 6 picks, you can be rest assured that they will work well on your dinner plates but are also safe enough for baby bottles and toddler dishes. Also, for all the dishes you choose not to hand wash, take a peek at our dishwasher detergent roundup.

a) Attitude Dishwashing Liquid

b) Aunt Fannie's Microcosmic Probiotic Power Dish Soap

c) Better Life Dish Soap

d) ECOS Dishmate Dish Liquid

e) Common Good dish soap

f) Cleancult liquid dish soap

g) Trader Joe's Dish Soap Lavender Tea Tree


We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

Roundups

Eco-Friendly and Reusable Gift Wrapping Ideas

Spread holiday cheer without creating waste!

Since this is a safe space we can admit that one of the best parts about the holidays is the presents, right? But the amount of wrapping paper we go through every year is just insane... and most of it isn't even recyclable! Unless "recyclable" is specifically mentioned on the label, you'll have to throw used wrapping paper into the trash. And sometimes, we could do without that mountain of used wrapping paper after presents have been opened, even if it is the recyclable kind.
That's why we wanted to find the best wrapping options that could actually be recycled or reused year to year! Check out these great alternatives to tranditonal wrapping paper!


a) 2 Pieces Christmas Canvas Tote Bags Buffalo Plaid Check Shopping Bags

b) joywrap

c) Hallmark Recyclable Kraft Wrapping Paper

d) Eco-Friendly Reversible Wrapping Paper

e) Hallmark Reusable Fabric Gift Wrap

f) Hallmark Black and Red Drawstring Gift Bag Set


g) Furoshiki Reusable Gift Wrapping Cloth


h) Organic Cotton Reusable Gift Wrap (Set of 3)

i) Brown Kraft Paper Jumbo Roll

Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, and fun gifts for your home chef? We created a gift guide this year for those people on your list who love cooking and hosting. Whether it's elaborate dinner parties or weeknight meals, these gifts are sure to bring some joys in the new year. We looked for gifts that avoided waste (like a stovetop popcorn maker), or that avoided harmful chemicals (like a cast iron skillet), or that could bring a little fun into the kitchen (like these fabulous cloth napkins).

This year, we have highlighted many products by many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) owned/founded brands. Buying from these brands is a great way to support economic opportunities in BIPOC communities and celebrates diversity in the sustainability space. Additionally, since climate change is an urgent issue with so many health impacts, we are also highlighting brands that are Climate Neutral certified. That means that the brand has committed to measure, offset, and reduce the carbon they emit. We believe that consumers and companies must work together to embrace and make true commitments to diversity and sustainability. Look no further for the ultimate gift guide!

$: Under $50

Handheld milk frother

This stainless steel milk frother is the perfect way to warm up your milk (or milk alternative) without having to sacrifice counter space! Whether you're drinking coffee or matcha, this it the perfect tool to take things up a notch.

Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes (BIPOC brand)

Want to eat less meat, but don't know how to make vegetable dishes stand out? Step up your cooking game with delicious recipes from this unique cookbook from Bryant Terry. Bryant is renowned for his activism and efforts to create a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system, so this cookbook is right up our alley.

Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution (BIPOC brand)

Looking to up your whole grain intake? Expand your baking skills with Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution. You'll be amazed how a simple cookie can change texture and flavor based on the flours you use. Learn about the world of ancient grains like buckwheat, sorghum, rye, barley, and heirloom wheat and bake some delicious treats.

GreenLife Bakeware Healthy Ceramic Nonstick, Muffin Pan

This ceramic baking pan by GreenLife is non-stick without harmful chemicals and comes in a bunch of cute colors. Weekend muffins are calling you!

Great Northern Popcorn Original Stainless Steel Stove Top Popcorn Popper

Microwave popcorn is expensive and the bags are coated in Teflon like chemicals, but it's so convenient. Enter this amazing popcorn maker. You'll never look at microwaved popcorn the same way after you use this Great Northern stovetop popcorn popper! It's stainless steel body perfectly cooks kernels to tasty perfection.

Heath Ceramics large coffee mug

Elevate your morning coffee with this beautifully crafted mug from Heath Ceramics. It comes in many lead-free glazes and is as sturdy as it is beautiful.

$ $: Between $50-100

Hamilton Beach Belgian Waffle Maker

Sunday brunch just got so much better with this waffle maker by Hamilton Beach. Most waffle makers use a Teflon-like coating in their waffle makers, but this waffle maker uses a ceramic non-stick. It's really easy to use and the ceramic grids pop out for easy cleaning.

Diaspora Co. Single-Origin Spices (BIPOC brand)

Spices can make or break a dish, which is why we love upgrading our spice drawer with this set of single origin spices from Diaspora. We love that they pay a living wage to partner farmers and their partner model allows them to provide quality control that results in fresher, more delicious spices. That also means that they can also better control potential contamination and test for lead contamination. They are also working on organic certification for their partner farms.

Emile Henry Deep Food Storage Bowl

Who says food storage has to be boring? Beauty meets function with this deep food storage bowl by Emile Henry. The cork top serves as a fruit bowl, while the lower level with vents and darkness acts as a mini pantry to store root vegetables and onions.

Siafu Home Congolese Napkins

The scalloped edge and fun pattern of these napkins make them a great hostess gift! These are screen printed by hand in Kenya and are a great way to add some color to your table.

$ $ $: Over $100

Graf Lantz Felt Placemats

These sturdy place mats will protect your table from the messiest of eaters! The merino wool material is naturally water and odor resistant, and also offers amazing thermal protection.

Olivewood Serving Board

These hand-carved cheese boards are made from a single piece of olivewood, which means no glues or adhesives are added to the wood. They are the perfect backdrop to your next charcuterie board.

East Fork Serving Bowl (Climate Neutral certified)

This handmade pottery serving bowl from East Fork is perfect for all your serving need- whether it's for movie night popcorn or a salad at a dinner party for 10!

Brightland Olive Oil Duo (BIPOC brand)

There's a reason you've seen Brightland all over social, it's high quality olive oil and beautiful bottle make it a star! The Duo set is the perfect way to try two of their most popular flavors! The olives come from a family-run California farm that does not use pesticides and is committed to organic practices.

Le Creuset Cast Iron Skillet

Le Creuset is known for it's quality and beautiful color choices and this enameled cast iron skillet is no exception! This pan will last you a lifetime and is naturally non-stick enough for scrambles and fried eggs. No Teflon chemicals needed.

Fellow coffee Pour Over Coffee and Electric Kettle

This Fellow electric kettle and pour over set are perfect companions for your coffee! These products don't contain any plastic and will make you feel like a certified barista.

Life

Artificial or Real Christmas Tree? What's better for you and the environment.

What toxic chemicals are in artificial Christmas trees and tips for how to stay safe

Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular for families. They're seen as being convenient since they don't shed needles and can be reused year after year. Some even come with lights already on them! But is the convenience of artificial Christmas trees worth it? We break down the science and the pros and cons of artificial Christmas trees and farm grown real Christmas trees to help you have a healthy and sustainable Christmas!

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Life

Buying holiday decorations? Here's what you should know

Don't let these chemicals ruin your holiday cheer

You may need to be careful rockin' around the Christmas tree this year! Why you ask? Well, there might be some unexpected chemicals in that holly jolly decoration above your head. Holiday decorations can bring great cheer, but sometimes they can contain an unwanted surprise. Some decorations may be made with toxic chemicals - keep a look out for the ones below!
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