The Government Just Put A Chemical That's In EVERYTHING On The Cancer List

Do you dress well? You’ve probably been wearing Formaldehyde-treated clothing.

Do you dress well?You’re probably wearing clothing treated with cancer-causing chemical #1 on the government’s new cancer list.

The 12th list of the chemicals that give you cancer to be published by the toxicology program at the National Institutes at Health was released on June 10th.

The bad news: Formaldehyde is one of the 8 chemicals listed on it. 

See all of the chemicals on the list >

Formaldehyde has been expected to join this list for many years and unfortunately, it’s already in everything, to the point that it’s safe to say you’ve definitely been exposed to it at some point in your life. Especially if you’ve ever been inside a nail or hair salon, worn a wrinkle-free shirt, or smelled the “new house” smell.

It’s the long term exposure to the chemical that the Department of Health and Human Services believes poses a cancer risk, so don’t get too freaked out.

Just know that products with formaldehyde include: glues, permanent press fabrics, paper product coatings, fiberboard, and plywood. It is also widely used as an industrial fungicide, germicide and disinfectant. And as as a preservative in medical laboratories and mortuaries, according to a factsheet about Formaldehyde published by the government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which you can download by clicking here

See more products with formaldehyde >

This is the 12th cancer list the government has published and the scariest thing about it, besides the chemicals on the list, of course, is finding out how many years lobbyists were able to keep it from being reported.

“Industry has held this report up for 4 years.. they have tried to create the impression that there was real scientific uncertainty here, but there’s not,” Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources defence Council, told the NYTimes.

The good news is that Formaldehyde has been listed as a possible carcinogen since 1987, and concerns about it have stepped up significantly in recent years. But of course, a place on the government’s official list of what gives you cancer is as official as it gets.

The other good news is that the 7 other chemicals on the new list aren’t as much of a health concern. The worst of the 7, styrene, is about as much of a cancer risk as your cell phone or coffee, Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, told the NYTimes.

Also, most of the products that contain the carcinogens have already been recalled.

And obviously, the companies that make products that still contain formaldehyde will probably have to remove it from their products if they want to remain competitive.


In products such as: Cigarette smoke, Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing System, Wrinkle-free fabric, nail polish, nail polish remover, hairstyle products, mobile homes, automobile and other combustion sources, such as woodstoves, incinerators, refineries, forest fires, and fumes released from new construction or home-finishing products.

How you're exposed: You can inhale formaldehyde as a gas or vapor or absorb it through the skin as a liquid.

Check the ingredients list for: iazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (most commonly known as bronopol), and sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate. (These are all 'from aldehyde donors, says Julie Gabriel, the author of the Green Beauty Guide and founder of a skincare line that steers clear of using the chemical.)

Don't freak out too much: Formaldehyde is naturally produced in small amounts in our bodies

Source: Walletpop and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the ATSDR


In products such as: cigarette smoke, styrofoam, reinforced plastics, building materials (styrene vapors), photocopiers (styrene vapors). Low levels of styrene also occur naturally in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beverages, water, and meats.

How you're exposed: inhalation, ingestion, skin contact

Things to avoid: Cigarettes, hazardous waste sites, industrial facilities, facilities that make styrofoam, car parts, bathtubs or shower stalls, or build boats.

Source: ATSDR, Styrene fact sheet and substance profile via Dept of Health and Human Services

Aristolochic acids

In products such as: weight loss drugs, herbal products used to treat a wide variety of symptoms and diseases, such as arthritis, gout, and inflammation.

How you're exposed: ingested via eating or drinking

Products to avoid: Rheumixx; BioSlim Doctor's Natural Weight Loss System; Prostatin; Fang Ji Stephania; Mu Tong Clematis armandi; Temple of Heaven Chinese Herbs Radix; Meridian Circulation; Qualiherb Chinese Herbal Formulas Dianthus Formulas; Clematis & Carthamus Formula 21280 (2 samples); Virginia Snake Root; Cut Aristolochia serpentaria (2 samples); Green Kingdom Akebia Extract, Green Kingdom Stephania Extract; Neo Concept Aller Relief, Mu Tong Clematis armandi; Fang Ji Stephania; Stephania tetrandra, roots, whole

Source: FDA


In products such as: It is possible, though highly unlikely, that individuals could be exposed by ingestion of imported fruits or vegetables treated with captafol.

How you're exposed: ingestion, inhalation, and through dermal contact

Products to avoid: It's now illegal to import any foods with captafol residue, so don't worry about it.

Source: Captafol Substance Profile via the Dept of Health and Human Services

Certain glass wool fibres

In products such as: glass wool, which used to be used for home and building insulation and also for sound insulation. Nowadays, most home and building insulation projects use general-purpose glass wool, which doesn't contain glass wool fibres.

How you're exposed: inhalation

Products to avoid: High-efficiency particulate air filters for settings where high-purity air is required. Special-purpose glass fibres are also used for aircraft, spacecraft, and acoustical insulation. The largest market for special-purpose glass fibres is for battery separator media.

Source: Glass wool fibres fact sheet via the Dept of Health and Human Services

Cobalt-tungsten carbide: powders and hard metals

In products such as: cutting tools and wear-resistant materials, primarily for tools for mining and grinding operations

How you're exposed: Inhalation

Products to avoid: The major source of exposure to cobalt--tungsten carbide powders and hard metals is occupational. However if you live near a hard-metal production facility, you might be exposed to dusts.

Source: Cobalt-tungsten carbide substance profile via the Dept of Health and Human Services


In products such as: The chemical can be found in breakdown products of DNT and TNT, which are used in the production of commercial and military explosives.

How you're exposed: inhaled, absorbed through your blood after oral exposure

Products to avoid: If you live near a military plant, you could move. Otherwise, you can't really avoid exposing yourself to o-nitrotoluene. O-nitrotoluene has been found in groundwater, private well water, surface water, and soil at or near munitions production facilities and military training grounds. It's also been found in the air.

Source: o-nitrotoluene substance profile via the Dept of Heath and Human Services


In products such as: Plants (none of them are used for food in the U.S., however, the riddelliine-containing plant Senecio longilobus has been used in medicinal herb preparations in the United States, and S. jacobaea and S. vulgaris, both of which have been shown to contain riddelliine, are used in medicinal preparations in other parts of the world)

How you're exposed: ingestion, dermal absorption (unlikely)

Plants to avoid: • Senecio aegypticus • Senecio ambrosioides (S. brasiliensis) • Senecio cruentus • Senecio cymbalarioides • Senecio desfontanei (S. coronopifolius) • Senecio douglasii var. longilobus* (S. longilobus) (woody orthreadleaf groundsel) • Senecio eremophilus • Senecio jacobaea* (erucifoline chemotype) (tansy ragwort,stinking willie) • Senecio riddellii* (Riddell's ragwort, Riddell's groundsel) • Senecio spartioides* (broom groundsel) • Senecio vulgaris* (common groundsel) • Senecio pseudo-orientalis

Source: Riddelliine substance profile via the Dept of Heath and Human Services

The complete list of what gives you cancer is on the National Toxicology Program's website

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