A new study published Tuesday in the international journal Environmental Health says that regular use of cleaning products is likely to double the chances of developing breast cancer in women. Common household products, many of which have been sold for decades, contain substances such as “endocrine disrupting chemicals” and “mammary gland carcinogens.”
Researchers conducted the study in Massachusetts by surveying women who developed breast cancer about which household cleaning products they typically used. The study found that women who used certain cleaning products the most were twice as likely to develop cancer. Products including air fresheners and mold removers were found to be likely culprits, while mothballs, pesticides, and insect repellents did little or nothing to raise the risk of developing breast cancer.
According to the report, researchers used a “stratified analysis” that took into account certain biases and beliefs about the causes of cancer, such as chemical, hereditary, and environmental pollutant origins. While the researchers sought to minimize bias, they acknowledge that the study leaves room for error. For instance, respondents who believed chemical products caused or contributed to their cancer were more likely to report frequent use of the products.
The study also asked respondents about other common breast cancer gauges including reproductive history, height, weight, alcohol and tobacco use, physical activity, pharmaceutical hormone use, and education level.
The sale of household cleaning products is a $30 billion industry in the United States, so it’s not surprising that the study prompted a backlash from the American Cleaning Institute (ACI). Richard Sedlak, vice president of ACI’s Technical and International Affairs, told the AP that the research was “rife with innuendo and speculation about the safety of cleaning products and their ingredients.”
“Unfortunately, this work sheds little light on the real causes of breast cancer,” Steplak said.