3. House Paint And Cancer

According to the EPA, paints, varnishes, waxes, and some cleaning supplies contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are known to cause cancer.

“VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands; examples include paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, and building materials and furnishings,” according to the EPA.

They release organic compounds into the air while you’re using them, and to some degree afterward, at least while drying. Probably the worst of these chemicals is methylene chloride, which is a documented carcinogen in animals, and benzene, which is documented for cancer in humans.

Related: Poppy’s Eco-Certified All Purpose Spray Cleaner

Methylene chloride is in most paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints. Another danger of this chemical is that it is converted to carbon monoxide in the body and can therefore cause the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Benzene is in stored paint supplies and fuels.

Safer substitute: Paints labeled “low-VOC” are safer than regular paints. But one brand of paint, Mythic, contains no toxins, carcinogens, or VOCs. It’s so safe that it meets LEED green building standards.

If you wish to use paints and other products containing VOCs, work outdoors or in the garage when possible (such as when refinishing a piece of furniture). Adequate ventilation is key, so when painting indoors, open all the windows and doors and turn on fans. (Tip: Paint in the spring and summer, when it’s warm and you can air out the house.)

This list was written by Melanie Haiken for Caring and was last updated on October 9, 2012. Photo by Deanna Krug/Flickr.

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