What Causes Lung Cancer?

doctor holding a x ray

Lung Cancer: How to be on the lookout for cancer causing chemicals that can be affecting your lungs and breathing even if you are not a smoker.

I hear all the time about people getting lung cancer and often people say “But they did not even smoke”. Everyone knows that smoking can cause Lung Cancer. We also know that cigarettes are made of tobacco leaves. What many people don’t know is that cigarettes also contain many other substances and chemicals that are added to the tobacco, and so many people don’t realize these  chemicals are also found in many products that you use on a daily basis. So, is it the chemicals that are causing cancer not the cigarettes?

According to the American Lung Association “Tobacco smoke is made up of thousands of chemicals, including at least 70 known to cause cancer. These cancer-causing chemicals are referred to as carcinogens. Some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include:”

  • Nicotine (the addictive drug that produces the effects in the brain that people are looking for)
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Ammonia
  • Radioactive elements, such as polonium-210 (see below)
  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

In my opinion it is the chemicals in the tobacco causing Cancer, but all you ever hear about is that the cigarettes are causing cancer, and rarely do we hear about the chemicals. So many of these chemicals are also found in many cleaning supplies, shampoo, conditioners, beauty products, new floors and furniture, fabrics, shower curtains, cosmetics, and many more items. Below I depict two of the above listed chemicals; Formaldehyde and Benzene. There are many ways these cancer-causing chemicals can be getting into your lungs.


When formaldehyde is present in the air some people may have health effects, such as watery eyes, breathing issues, burning sensations of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, skin irritation, respiratory problems, and nausea. Many homes with new products or new construction can have levels higher in new manufactured wood products such as flooring, adhesives, and furniture. Formaldehyde can also be found in some fabrics.  It can also be present in fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. It is used in cosmetics, nail polish, candles, air fresheners, makeup, hairspray, or styling gel. As these products sit in your cabinets, they may release the chemical in the form of gas into the air. 

I recently found a stash of nail polish in a cabinet in a spare bathroom and when I opened the doors, I could instantly smell the nail polish outgassing. Needless to say, I got rid of them! These days I am not wearing nail polish but I am told this is a good one. Dazzle Dry Nail Polish

An air quality monitor can detect Formaldehyde. We use one all the time in our home.  Here is one that we use: See Indoor Air Quality Monitor

An Air Purifier can also capture this harmful chemical. We sell the Austin Air Purifier that captures formaldehyde, VOC’s, and other chemicals. Please inquire about our discount on these air purifiers. See Austin Air link


People who breathe in benzene may develop the following signs and symptoms: drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene has been tied to the leukemia and other cancers. Benzene is a carcinogenic substance that is present in a number of modern products and industries. Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air. The benzene in indoor air comes from products that contain it such as glues, adhesives, paints, lacquer, varnish removers, cleaning supplies, furniture wax, tobacco smoke and detergents. 

Other areas of concerns:

Radon is an odorless gas that is emitted from decaying natural uranium in the soil and is very common in the Northeast United States. IAccording to the EPA, research suggests that many lung cancer deaths in the United States each year can be attributed to radon exposure in the home or workplace. There are radon detectors available to evaluate your home and here is one that we have in our home. See Air-things.


  1. The best form of protection from cancer causing chemicals is prevention. The less formaldehyde brought into your home, the better. There are some products available for your home that are made without formaldehyde and looking for low-VOC products is a good idea.
  2. Always use an exhaust fan when cooking—This can help dilute and disperse the formaldehyde released from a gas stove while cooking and open a window in the kitchen when you can.
  3. Always wash new clothing before wearing it— Manufacturers often use chemicals like formaldehyde to reduce them from shrinking and make fabrics more wrinkle-free. One wash can remove residual chemicals before your wear them before they come in contact with your skin.  The same practice should go for any bed sheets, blankets, and towels.
  4. If you buy anything new allow them to outgas outside. When you buy sneakers, leave them outside for a day. If you purchase anything new, take the plastic off and let them outgas outside if possible. When you pick up dry cleaning, leave the clothes outside for a bit if you can and make sure your windows in your car are open driving home.
  5. Candles and air fresheners could be releasing formaldehyde into the air. Many of these types of products could be manufactured with this chemical and others, so look for products that are eco-friendlier and more chemical free.
  6. Read the labels on your Household Cleaners: A number of cleaning products contain ammonia and other chemicals, so always read the labels. Unfortunately, they are not always listed so do you research as well. Ammonia is a common ingredient in household cleaners and it will result in the emission of ammonia and its odor into your home.

No one can completely avoid coming into contact with all chemicals in their home, so please do not be discouraged. Take some steps to prevent them as best you can. Try to just be diligent and read labels and so some research. We offer one-on-one consulting if you are interested in having us guide you through the process of “Detoxing your House”. See link Your health and the health of your family is worth it!

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