More research is supporting the premise that we live in a “toxic soup” in which everyday chemicals contribute to chronic health conditions like cancer, autoimmune disease, and infertility.

A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives lists 17 chemicals that have been shown to cause breast cancer in lab rats and are likely to do the same in women. These chemicals are found in vehicle exhaust, furniture flame retardants, charred foods, cookware, and even drinking water. “Every woman in America has been exposed to chemicals that may increase her risk of getting breast cancer,” according to co-author Julia Brody. A similar study published Monday found that chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, like BPA and phthalates, can interfere with sperm development and mobility.

These studies add to the growing body of evidence that suggests man-made chemicals in the environment sacrifice long-term health for modern convenience. We should take small, conscious steps to reduce our overall chemical exposure, not only for the health concerns we know about, but also the health concerns we don’t know about yet!

While it may not be feasible to completely eliminate your susceptibility to chemicals, there are some things you can do to support yourself:

1. Limit exposure to vehicular exhaust from cars, lawn equipment, and generators.

2. Cook with a ventilation fan and don’t eat burnt or charred food.

3. Only buy furniture, carpets, etc. that are free of flame retardants.

4. Use a dry cleaner who does not use PERC or other solvents.  A couple of doors down from our office is a cleaner that does an excellent job with “organic,” non-chemical cleaning.

5. Avoid drinking, storing, or cooking any liquid in a plastic container. Plastic can leach dangerous chemicals like BPA and phthalates into food or liquids, especially when heated in a microwave.

6. Check out the Environmental Working Group for more information about chemical exposure in household products, foods, and cookware.