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20 Common Chemicals and Pollutants That Can Increase the Risk of Cancer—Particularly in Children

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The following mention is from Children and Environmental Toxins: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Philip J Landrigan and Mary M. Landrigan (Oxford University Press, 2018). Reprinted with permission.

Most childhood cancer is diagnosed during the child’s first 5 years of life, with a arise occurrence during the first year. The many common childhood cancer is leukemia, followed by lymphomas and brain cancers.

There are famous links between poisonous chemicals and childhood cancers, but much some-more investigate is required to establish given childhood cancer is on the rise. Since many childhood cancers seem early in the child’s life, investigate is focusing courtesy on prenatal exposures to cancer-causing agents as one piece in the nonplus of rising numbers of childhood cancer.


There are a series of famous carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) that can boost the risk of cancer in children and adults. A prejudiced list of carcinogens are discussed here in brief snapshots that incorporate information from the International organisation for Research on Cancer, the National Cancer Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Aflatoxins are a organisation of poisonous chemicals constructed in warm, damp climates by several forms of fungi and molds that grow on peanuts, corn, and other nuts. Aflatoxins can means liver cancer in people who feast infested food products. Cancer risk is biggest in people with liver repairs or ongoing infection with hepatitis B. Children can be unprotected to aflatoxins in peanut butter finished from peanuts infested with the fungus.

Air pollution is the aerosolized “toxic chemical soup” that we now all breathe. Outdoor air wickedness includes breathable excellent particulates of slag from automobile empty and industrial smokestacks, as good poisonous gases from fuel combustion—carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, CO monoxides, and other chemical compounds. The greeting of these excellent particulates and poisonous gases with ground-level ozone, a respiratory nuisance shaped when ultraviolet light or electrical discharges conflict with oxygen, produces civic smog. Outdoor air wickedness is a carcinogen.

Indoor air pollutants are also potentially toxic: CO monoxide, radon, fume from deodorizers, cleaners, domicile products, new building materials or furniture, domicile harassment droppings, tobacco smoke, pollen, and mold.

A far-reaching array of disastrous health effects—cancer, respiratory diseases, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and beforehand birth have been associated to air pollution. Diesel empty is deliberate to be a proven lung carcinogen.

Anabolic steroids, utterly anabolic androgenic steroids used illegally by some athletes to raise flesh bulk and urge performance, are carcinogenic. They have been shown to be a means of liver cancer. Children and teens are at special risk given they may see steroids as a way to urge their jaunty opening in competing for places on sports teams. In further to the serious penalties for steroid use that are imposed by the ruling bodies of orderly sports, the health risks of steroid use are enormous. Steroids should never be used for any purpose having to do with entertainment by persons of any age. The supposed short-term gains are tiny compared with the repairs steroids can cause.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical member that can be found in air, water, and dirt and that can means cancers of the bladder, skin, lung, gastrointestinal system, liver, kidney, and blood. It occurs as a contaminant in water supplies, which can outcome in ongoing exposure. It is also expelled into the sourroundings by rural and smelting industries. Arsenic was used as a bomb in the past and is still found in some finished products.

Children can be unprotected to arsenic when they play nearby old wooden structures finished of pressure-treated timber that was treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Commonly used in progressing years for stadium apparatus and outside decks, CCA is an arsenic devalue that can be ingested by children personification in the dirt around the structures or from infested dust. Recent studies have shown that arsenic continues to leach from the treated timber for at slightest 7 to 10 years after installation.

Asbestos is the name given to a organisation of sinewy minerals that start naturally in geologic formations around the world, but generally in Canada, Russia, Brazil, Western Australia, and South Africa. All forms of asbestos are famous carcinogens and must be delicately avoided. Asbestos fibers have been used extensively in the United States and elsewhere in shipbuilding and building construction given the early 20th century. Billions of tons of asbestos have been used in homes, open buildings, and schools in the United States and worldwide. Asbestos does not bake and is simply built into insulation, fire-proofing, roof tiles, roof shingles, boiler coating, building coatings, and spray-on wall and roof lamp coverings.

As asbestos-containing tiles and insulation age and deteriorate, tiny, powdery fibers of asbestos are expelled into domicile air and residence dust. When inhaled or ingested, these fibers can enter the physique and sojourn asleep for decades. Up to 50 years later, they can means lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and virulent mesothelioma, a life-threatening carcenogenic growth that is specific to asbestos.

Children are at risk of asbestos bearing from deteriorating roof coverings in older schools treated with asbestos and in mixed other buildings treated with asbestos products. Removal of asbestos should be finished only by specifically lerned workers, ideally during school vacations, given the apportionment of asbestos fibers during renovations or the demolishing of a building puts people unprotected to the fibers at risk of cancer.

Aspartame is an synthetic sweetener that has been widely used given the 1980s and is found currently in thousands of products worldwide, particularly in diet beverages. Previously it was deliberate safe, but large, long-term animal studies are now indicating that aspartame may be a intensity means of leukemia. Exposures to aspartame during pregnancy seem to generally dangerous and are compared in animal studies with increasing rates of cancer in offspring.

Benzene is a thin, colorless, sweet-smelling well-off used in attention and manufacturing. Commercial products containing benzene embody paint strippers, cleaners, adhesives, and glues. Exposure to benzene can means leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood disorders.

Benzene was once a widely used well-off valued as a domicile mark remover and well-off for douse associated to automotive or handyman projects in the home. However, the major risk to children currently from benzene is by bearing to gasoline, which contains benzene. Children and teens can be unprotected to benzene while pumping gasoline at a self-service hire or when fueling tiny engines, such as lawnmowers. Benzene can also be engrossed into the physique by the skin if fuel is splashed onto the skin.

Benzopyrene is a black, sooty, burnt piece that is shaped when barbecuing food, blazing toast, or roasting coffee and smoking tobacco. Car exhaust, timber fires, and timberland fires can also enclose benzopyrene. Benzopyrene has been associated to stomach and lung cancer.

Cadmium is a lead member associated with bladder and presumably pancreatic cancer. A member of outside air pollution, cadmium is expelled into the sourroundings from incinerators and zinc refineries. Commercial uses of cadmium embody paint pigments, plastics, and batteries. Cadmium is also found in tobacco smoke.

DDTis an organochlorine bomb that has been recently associated to breast cancer when bearing occurs early in life. Women who were unprotected to DDT as immature girls have a aloft occurrence of breast cancer in after life than other women. An towering risk of breast cancer is also seen in women whose mothers who were unprotected to DDT while they were profound with them. These commentary denote how poisonous environmental exposures during windows of developmental disadvantage in early life change risk of illness opposite the life span.

Diethylstilbesterol (DES) was a remedy given in the 1960s and 70s to profound women who were in risk of having a miscarriage or extemporaneous abortion. It is a famous means of vaginal cancer in immature women who were unprotected to it prenatally and it also causes some reproductive changes in males. There are some information indicating that the health effects of DES may be multigenerational.

Diesel exhaustcontains dirtier and some-more poisonous fume than gasoline exhaust. Diesel empty is comprised of soot, CO dioxide, CO monoxide, several oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, formaldehyde, and benzopyrene. One of the many poisonous components of diesel empty is 1,3-butadiene, a absolute carcinogen. Diesel empty has been personal as a famous human carcinogen.

Dioxins are rarely toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that are constructed during the incineration of PVC plastics and other chlorine-containing compounds, such as PCBs. They are determined organic pollutants (POPs) and have been found in milk, food, and even tot regulation and breast milk. High-fat foods, such as meat, milk, and eggs, enclose snippet amounts of dioxins that are eliminated to people who eat these foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annual consult lists dioxins as one of the 200 environmental chemicals found in the bodies of many Americans. (See also TCDD.)

Formaldehyde is a chemical widely used in domicile products, such as particleboard, pulpy wood, plywood,glues, adhesives, paper products, insulation, and industrial resins. Perhaps it is best famous as the chemical obliged for the “new furniture” or “new car” smell that is rescued as newly purchased equipment recover formaldehyde into the environment. Formaldehyde has been associated to leukemia and other cancers.

Lindane, also famous as HCB (hexachlorobenzene), is an bomb banned for rural use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1976 given it is a determined organic pollutant. However, lindane is still accessible by medical medication as a diagnosis for lice. It is a means of liver cancer. Safer treatments for conduct lice now exist.

Nitrosamine is a poisonous chemical constructed in the physique during the digestion of nitrate-containing recorded meats, such as prohibited dogs, luncheon meats, and sausages. This carcinogen is also found in tobacco smoke. Nitrosamines are personal as illusive carcinogens associated to digestive complement cancers.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are rarely chlorinated compounds before used in electrical insulation. They are rarely determined in the environment. They have been personal as carcinogens.

Perchloroethylene, also called PERC or tetrachloroethylene, is a well-off used in dry cleaning and steel degreasing. It is a illusive carcinogen that may be associated to leukemia, bladder cancer, and lymphomas.

Pesticide exposure is associated several forms of cancer, generally among farmworkers, their families, and people who live in rural areas. Several pesticides—glyphosate (RoundUp), malathion, and diazinon—have been personal as illusive human carcinogens with links to lymphomas and other cancers. Tetrachlorvinphos and parathion are personal as probable carcinogens on the basement of information from animal studies.

Radiation has many forms, and any kind of deviation contains a specific volume and form of energy. The forms of deviation differ from one another in the ways they broach appetite to the human physique and in the repairs they produce.

Radiation causes repairs to the physique by transferring appetite to the cells by which it passes. Different forms of deviation act in very opposite ways, are found in opposite environmental settings, and can means utterly opposite forms of injury. However, appetite send is always the elemental resource of deviation injury.

The send of appetite that is constructed by deviation is identical to other common appetite transfers, such as the send of appetite in a automobile pile-up or being hit by a baseball. When the moving intent hits the body, it slows down by transferring its appetite to the body’s tissues and bones, causing cuts and abrasions or a broken bone. In a identical fashion, when a molecule of deviation passes by the body, it collides with singular atoms or molecules low within the cells.

High doses of ionizing radiation, the form of deviation found in X-rays, deviation therapy, or atomic bombs, kill cells as it passes by the body. Deep burns, eye injury, and death from deviation illness are some of the results. Destruction of bone pith can occur. With the drop of bone marrow, the physique loses its ability to make new red and white blood cells; anemia and an marred ability to fight off infection result. Destruction of the dungeon backing of the gastrointestinal tract is another underline of strident deviation illness and this can means death.

Lower-dose bearing to ionizing deviation causes pointed repairs that may not seem for many years. At reduce doses, deviation can change and crush molecular structures within the cells of the human body. DNA, the elemental human genetic material, is the many exposed target. When deviation strikes the iota of a cell, a change in DNA called a turn occurs. Mutations caused by deviation can renovate cells, heading to their apropos virulent and building into widespread cancer.

In 1990 the National Academy of Sciences settled that there are no protected thresholds for bearing to ionizing radiation. Even the smallest doses are able of causing mutations in DNA. In general, the aloft the deviation dose, the some-more serious the effects on the human body, the larger the odds of mutation, and the larger odds of eventually building cancer.

Philip J. Landrigan, MD, M.Sc., is Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine and Founding Director, Children’s Environmental Health Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Mary M. Landrigan, M.P.A., is a health teacher who spent 25 years at the Westchester County Department of Health.

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