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How Organic Living Can Help Prevent Cancer

Two women preparing healthy organic food to help lower cancer risk

Perhaps one of the biggest health misconceptions of our time is the notion that cancer is primarily genetic. Cancer just happens to some people, right? We get it – cancer is incredibly scary and there are many unknowns. It’s tempting to just ignore it until it becomes a problem.

However, the truth is that the experts do know something that we can’t ignore: more than half of cancers are preventable! Many cancers are a result of lifestyle factors that are largely within our control, like:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Environment

February, National Cancer Prevention Month, is an excellent time to learn more about how to prevent cancer. At Happsy, we’re committed to organic living, and we’re here to help you kickstart some small yet significant changes you can make now to help protect yourself and your loved ones from developing cancer later on. Just remember: lifestyle changes mean lifelong changes! Let’s get started.

Organic living = drastically fewer carcinogens

Mother and son eating organic food as cancer preventionMother and son eating organic food as cancer prevention

Carcinogens fall into one of are two classifications – known (AKA proven) carcinogens and those that are reasonably anticipated to cause cancer. You should avoid both!

Unfortunately, we live in an increasingly toxic world, and carcinogens can be found in our air, water, food supply, personal care products, home items and more. The average consumer comes into contact with hundreds of harmful chemicals and ingredients every single day, many of which are known carcinogens. Limiting your daily exposure won’t come without some work. That’s just our reality.

But, living a mostly organic and low-tox lifestyle is within your control and can make a huge impact. Choosing certified organic and non-toxic products means the purchases you make – from the food you eat to the mattress you sleep on – have been vetted for carcinogens. While one single exposure to a carcinogen likely won’t result in developing cancer, repeated daily exposure and toxin accumulation in the body might. An organic lifestyle reduces your exposure to common carcinogens – plain and simple.

7 Common carcinogens found in your home

Home is your sanctuary. It’s the last place that should feel unsafe. Unfortunately, it may be filled with known carcinogens that off-gas from furniture, paint, mattresses and more. Reducing the common carcinogens in your home is essential and very possible if you know what to look for. Here are seven common carcinogens found in most homes:

Man sleeping on a non-organic mattress containing common carcinogensMan sleeping on a non-organic mattress containing common carcinogens

1. Formaldehyde 

This known carcinogen is commonly found in plywood, fabrics, furniture and mattresses. Before buying these items, it’s best to ask the manufacturer if they contain formaldehyde. This likely won’t be readily stated on the labels. Often, the formaldehyde is hiding in terms like “glues” or “adhesives,” if those terms are even mentioned at all. There's also a large class of preservatives that are known formaldehyde-releasers.

2. Phthalates 

This common carcinogen is commonly used to make plastics more durable. Phthalates can be found in many household items, including mattresses, furniture, vinyl flooring and shower curtains, personal care products, solvents or finishes on furniture, and more. FYI: phthalates are also a major endocrine disruptor.

3. Glyphosate

Glyphosate is an herbicide and pesticide heavily sprayed on non-organic produce and crops. In fact, even organic items will likely contain a small amount of glyphosate, which is why it’s so important to disinfect produce before consuming it. Glyphosate can also be found in non-organic plant-derived materials like cotton. Even cotton tampons that are not organic can contain glyphosate!

4. Fragrance 

Synthetic fragrance fills most homes in the form of scented candles, room sprays, perfumes and colognes, personal care products, laundry detergent, and similar scented items. “Fragrance” is a dangerous ingredient because, due to protecting trade secrets, manufacturers are not required to disclose what it contains. Therefore, fragrance often ends up acting as an umbrella ingredient than can contain hundreds of harmful ingredients and chemicals that may be carcinogens. For example, styrene is a common carcinogen used in most fragrance.

5. 1-4 Dioxane 

This is one of those carcinogens the EPA classifies as reasonably anticipated to cause cancer, but don’t let that make it seem less of a threat … it’s everywhere! 1-4 Dioxane is often found in foaming products in the home, like laundry detergents, dish soaps, hand soaps and cleaning products. It’s found in deodorants and cosmetics, as well as in antifreeze, many paints and lacquers, and even in some public water supplies.

Decorative soaps with "frangrance," an ingredient often containing carcinogens Decorative soaps with "frangrance," an ingredient often containing carcinogens

6. Asbestos 

These are tough, tiny fibers that are found in home insulation, roof shingles and ceiling tiles. When the fibers of asbestos break free, they spread easily into the air and can be inhaled or contaminate clothing and furniture and are extremely dangerous. If asbestos is found in your home, it needs to be safely removed by a professional.

7. Lead

Most people know that lead paint is bad because of the potential for lead poisoning. But, lead is also is a carcinogenic heavy metal. Aside from paint, beware of lead in colorants and coatings, stained glass, pipes, some toys and jewelry … even tap water. Oh, and like with asbestos, if your house was built before 1978 and lead paint is a concern, call a professional to assess and remove the paint.

Woman looking out of a window that may contain leadWoman looking out of a window that may contain lead

Need a cheat sheet?

It’s a lot to remember, and our list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Luckily, there are credible third-party certifiers that can help. They audit, test and verify products in terms of organic content and toxicity levels. When shopping, look for items with certifications/verifications like:

  • GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)
  • GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard)
  • MADE SAFE® (certified non-toxic)
  • GREENGUARD® Gold (certified low chemical emissions)
  • UL Formaldehyde Free
Big leafy houseplant near a sunny windowBig leafy houseplant near a sunny window

Any change is better than none!

Yep, carcinogens are everywhere. But, don’t get too discouraged! Any change you make for a healthier home will be a step in the right direction and will lower your risk of cancer.

Switching to an organic and non-toxic lifestyle is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s best to begin with the most important things you do every day, like breathing, drinking, eating and sleeping. Instead of tossing everything out at once, replace things slowly over time with safer organic alternatives as you can afford to. Just like we’re fond of saying when it comes to environmental impact, shavings make a pile.

HAPPSY HABITS: 5 tips for how to help prevent cancer

The most impactful changes we can make in preventing cancer are often the simplest –and may even be free! Living a healthier lifestyle doesn’t always cost a fortune.

1. Purify your air

Avoid tobacco, secondhand smoke and fragrance. Additionally, investing in an air purifier and simply opening the windows will improve your indoor air quality. Be sure to have your home inspected for mold and asbestos, too, and get regular HVAC system tune-ups.

2. Filter your water

Tap water is largely unregulated and can be polluted with heavy metals, harmful waste and toxic chemicals. Use only filtered water for all your cooking, bathing and drinking needs.

3. Eat organic 

Switching to organic products and produce will lessen your consumption of glyphosate. It’s wise to limit alcohol consumption, avoid highly processed foods and eat a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet, too.

4. Get outside 

Research shows that Vitamin D through sunlight exposure can reduce your risk of cancer. Starting your day with natural sun exposure will also improve your circadian rhythm for improved sleep!

5. Prioritize sleep 

Sleep is the foundation for good health. Implementing proper sleep hygiene, reducing your blue light exposure in the evening and switching to an organic mattress and bedding, like Happsy’s, can improve your sleep, keep your immune system strong and reduce your risk of cancer.

Woman lying on her stomach and smiling on an organic mattressWoman lying on her stomach and smiling on an organic mattress

It's never too late to change or to improve your health. Let this National Cancer Prevention month be the push you’ve been waiting for! Looking for more healthy living tips? Check out the benefits of daily walking. Ready to sleep organic? Shop the Happsy mattress!