The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has just released their 12th Report on Carcinogens, a congressionally-mandated public health document that identifies substances in our environment that may put people at an increased risk for cancer. It is prepared by the National Toxicology Program each year, and this year 8 substances were added to the already lengthy toxic list. Formaldehyde and aristolochic acids were added as known human carcinogens, while captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide, certain glass wool fibers, o-nitrotoluene, riddelliine, and styrene were included as being “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.”Here is what each one has been or currently is being used for:
- Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde is used to make resins and polymers, used in the wood glues to bond particle-board together, and are key to the manufacture of automobiles and automobile components. It is also used as a disinfectant and in some personal hygiene products which contain derivatives of formaldehyde as the active ingredients to prevent the growth of bacteria, and is of course used as an embalming agent.
- Aristolochic acids – Aristolochia plants have been used in traditional herbal medicines in many parts of the world, and have been reported to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antitumor effects. In contemporary medicine, Aristolochia plant extracts have been used in therapies for arthritis, gout, rheumatism, and festering wounds.
- Captafol – Captafol is a fungicide used to control fungal diseases of fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, and grasses and as a seed treatment. Although many countries banned its use, captafol was still used as of the mid 2000s in several countries that exported agricultural products to the United States.
- Cobalt-tungsten carbide – 70% of cobalt-tungsten carbide is used for cutting tools and 30% for wear-resistant materials, primarily for tools for mining and grinding operations.
- (Inhalable) Glass wool fibers – Used for insulation applications in the form of loose wool, batts, blankets or rolls, or rigid boards for acoustic insulation.
- O-nitrotoluene – o-Nitrotoluene is used primarily in the production of dyes, such as magenta and various sulfur dyes for cotton, wool, silk, leather, and paper. It is also used in the synthesis of explosives and a variety of organic chemicals, including compounds used in the agricultural chemical, pesticide, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and rubber industries.
- Riddelliine – The riddelliine-containing Senecio grows in desert areas of western North America, and is a low, shrubby plant with bright-green leaves and intensely yellow composite flowers. The plants are not used for food in the US but has been used in medicinal herb preparations.
- Styrene – Used in the manufacture of polystyrene, which is used extensively in the manufacture of plastic packaging, insulation, and disposable cups and containers. Styrene polymers are also increasingly used to produce various housewares, food containers, toys, electrical devices, automobile body parts, corrosion-resistant tanks and pipes, various construction items, carpet backings, house paints, computer printer cartridges, insulation products, wood-floor waxes and polishes, tires, adhesives, putties, personal-care products, and other items.
“Reducing exposure to cancer-causing agents is something we all want, and the Report on Carcinogens provides important information on substances that pose a cancer risk,”said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of both the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). “The NTP is pleased to be able to compile this report.”
A few of the toxic substances on the list have even been mentioned here on this site in the past in the following posts:
Since the report comes out every year, I think it is important to take a look at it each time to see what new substances may have been added. So do yourself and your family a favor and at least glance at the 12th Report on Carcinogens to see what kinds of things are in our environment that are likely to cause cancer.