What is a carcinogen? What are the carcinogenic elements?

what is a carcinogen

So what is a carcinogen?

According to Wikipedia, a carcinogen is defined below.

carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that promotes carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes. Several radioactive substances are considered carcinogens, but their carcinogenic activity is attributed to the radiation, for example gamma rays and alpha particles, which they emit. Common examples of non-radioactive carcinogens are inhaled asbestos, certain dioxins, and tobacco smoke. Although the public generally associates carcinogenicity with synthetic chemicals, it is equally likely to arise in both natural and synthetic substances. Carcinogens are not necessarily immediately toxic; thus, their effect can be insidious.


Just to be clear, not all carcinogens cause cancer at all times. It depends on the circumstances. In other words, carcinogen doesn’t cause cancer in every person who is exposed in every time. Even if a person is exposed to it, some might get after the small exposure or some might get after intense exposure to start carcinogenesis. It will depend on the person’s lifestyle, diet, genetic and how your body reacts and clean harmful substances out of your body, but knowing what it is, it won’t hurt you either. You will be more cautious when you make decisions.



So what are the carcinogenic elements?



I am listing this bad actor first since it can be found easily in many products.

According to cancer.org, formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas used in making building materials and many household products. It is used in pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials. This ingredient is so commonly found in many products, that would alarm you.

Furniture that is made of particleboard is cheap. The formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing process of particleboard. If the furniture used formaldehyde, it could release the gas while sitting in your room even in room temperature and humid condition. There are some ways to prevent it. First, buying furniture made of solid wood. If you couldn’t afford it, try buying used furniture made of solid wood. Second, buying furniture that is classified as U.L.E.F. (ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde) or N.A.F (no added formaldehyde.)

If you already have furniture that is made of particleboard, frequently air out your home for fresh air.
If you are still going to buy furniture that is made of particleboard due to low price and lightweight, let it air out outside first.


Your house cleaning products have formaldehyde such as disinfectants, dish soap, air fresheners and detergents. Read the labels carefully about what ingredients are contained. If you can, try to buy organic and plant-based products for cleaning. Your nail polish contains formaldehyde. Another reason, I stopped going to nail salon a long time ago. The inhaling of the mixed chemical smell especially being indoor doesn’t feel healthy at all and putting formaldehyde on nails makes even worse. Your body absorbs in it from nail polishes.

Beauty products also use formaldehyde such as makeup, shampoos, lotions, deodorants, hair gels, soaps and many more. Japan and Sweden already banned formaldehyde use in cosmetics and toiletries. More natural beauty brands are out in the market. Target puts the clean symbol on beauty products that don’t contain “propyl-parabens,butyl-parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), Oxybenzone, SLES, retinyl palmitate, hydroquinone, triclosan, triclocarban, BHA & BHT” These lists are from the Target. Check it out on the site here.




This Bottle Of All Natural Enzymatic Cleaner Can “digests” The Stains And Odors Lingering In Your Home. 

what is carcinogen




Wood Dust

People cutting wood and doing woodwork for a living may inhale large amounts of wood dust. When the dust is inhaled, small particles could be stuck in your nose, throat and airways. Wearing a respirator would reduce some, but actually what it needs is the exhaust ventilation system that sucks all wood dust particles where it emits before it goes on air. Without the exhaust ventilation system, wearing only a mask wouldn’t do good. Wood dust would land all over your places where you work and you would still inhale them.



Radon is a naturally occurring gas from the natural breakdown of uranium. Radon comes from the earth such as soils and rocks. People are exposed to it. If you smoke or burn coals and woods in the house, that would add radon in the air. All-natural products such as stones, minerals, sand could produce radon gas. Granite countertop in your kitchen could produce some amount of radon. If it emits a small amount of radon, it would not be significant to worry about it. You can have your home tested for the level of radon.



what is a carcinogen
Image by Ralf Vetterle from Pixabay

Air pollution

Air pollution occurs when the pollutants are released into the air.  Vehicle emissions and energy production such as burning fossil fuels release gases and chemicals into the air.  Whether it is gas or small particles, both are dangerous as they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstreams. When you see the weather reports, if the pollution level is high, it is advisable to plan fewer outdoor activities. Metropolitan areas such as big cities in California have listed as most ozone polluted areas according to this article.




Processed meat

Why the cured and added preservatives to the meat is bad? Processed meat is common in our dining table such as bacon, hot dogs, cold cuts, sausage, pepperoni, fast food chicken nuggets, etc. If you eat a small amount and once a while may not be a significant problem. When people eat a lot of processed meats in daily diets, your body is accumulating these bad agents such as salts, fats and chemical preservatives. The long term consequence is linked to different kinds of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.



Tobacco is a plant. The cultivation of the tobacco plant goes back to 6000 BC. Native Americans cultivated growing tobacco plants for leaves and used for medicinal and religious purposes. During World War I and World War II, smoking cigarettes became so popular. Tobacco companies used to send a pack of cigarettes to soldiers on front lines. That sounds crazy in today’s culture as we know more about health risks from smoking. According to WHO, tobacco kills more than 8 million people a year around the world including direct tobacco use and second-hand smoking. Tobacco contains an ingredient called nicotine which is addictive. Whether you chew, smoke or sniff tobacco, all results in health risks. Fortunately, tobacco products are under strict regulations today. These are common health risks from tobacco consumption such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and so on.


Coal Tar

It is derived from burning coal. Surprisingly, Coal Tar is used in cosmetics and personal care products. Coal Tar can be found in shampoos, soaps,  hair dyes and lotions. Read labels and avoid cosmetics and personal care products that contain Coal Tar. Food manufacturing companies always wanted vivid color on their products just look good, tempted and sells faster. Coal Tar was used to food coloring for many years until people were aware of health risks. The current food coloring is derived from petroleum or crude oil.

Speaking of food coloring, if you see the food label saying coloring such as yellow # , blue #, red #. They are of synthetic colors to make food colorful & vivid.  I think, food manufacturing companies chose the cheapest way to do it.  For example, when you buy mac&cheese products for your kids, if you see yellow coloring # in the food label for yellowy & tempted cheese color, I would advise you to buy other brands. Annie’s Mac&cheese uses annatto for yellow cheese coloring. Annatto is a food coloring made from the seeds of the achiote tree. Annatto contains plant-based properties that have health benefits.



It is a colorless and non-flammable liquid solvent. Do you remember the distinct chemical smell from your clothing after it was dry-cleaned?  I used to smell that after I dry-cleaned all my winter outfits. I picked them up and put them right away in my closet. What a mistake I made. Now I am in FL, I rarely wear any thick winter outfits. I choose to buy more clothing labeled machine washable or hand wash. If I have to dry clean the clothing, I use the dry cleaner that uses plant-based ingredients and doesn’t use perc. Luckily, I have one dry cleaner in my area. The price is a little higher than the regular dry cleaners but it is worth it.  If you don’t have dry cleaners in your area that don’t use perc, I would suggest you remove the plastic wrapper and air out the clothing outside before you put them in your closet.


   Extended Stay America : Military rates – always at or below per diem!


BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)

You would see this name in food labels as a preservative in chips, cookies, boxes of cereals. There is some controversy if it is good or harmful. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized as safe, but remember FDA allows other chemicals you see in food labels that are not the most healthy ingredients.  As long as FDA allows,  food manufacturing companies can add these ingredients. The National Toxicology Program has studied on BHA and they labeled “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”

The consumer group the Center for Science in the Public Interest puts BHT in its “caution” column. Animal testing in mice shows that long term exposure was linked to kidney, thyroid and heart problems.



It is made from crude oil or coal tar. Also, it can be found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust.  The common use is pesticide or pest repellent.  Mothballs that contain naphthalene have a white and round shape. It is solid but it releases gas. When the toxic gas is released, it kills or repels the pest. The strong odor itself can drive away from the pest. You would remember that smell if you smelled it before, it has a distinct odor. If you use mothballs that contain naphthalene around your house, make sure they are out of reach from pets and kids. They look like white candy that kids and pets may swallow.




It is also known as Styrofoam. It is a petroleum by-product. You can find them easily in plastics, rubbers, food packagings like food containers & drink cups, and foam packaging. Try to avoid styrofoam food containers and cups. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded styrene as possibly carcinogenic in humans.



It is a toxic compound produced by molds found in food. This food may contain corn, cottonseed, millet, peanuts, wheat, rice, sunflower seeds, flours, pasta and tree nuts. Fungal contamination could happen during harvest, storage, and transport. If you are not sure about products from the store, Vitamin C could help detoxify the mold in the products. When you bake, add Vitamin C powder in the flour. Add vitamin C power while cooking pasta and rice as well. Vitamin C and vinegar seem to help detoxify the molds.



There are so many, but these are the only some.









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