Ordinary Products, Extraordinary Health Risks

Experts reveal the surprising safety hazards in three common items.

By More.com Health Editors
coffee styrofoam cup to-go disposable health risk apples pesticides cell picture
Photograph: mike webber

Here are three popular products that might cause brain tumors, disrupt hormones and increase your risk of cancer:

To-Go Cups:In a new report, experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classified styrene—a chemical widely used in foam coffee cups, take-out containers, insulation and automobile parts—as “reasonably anticipated” to be carcinogenic. Studies show that prolonged exposure may increase a person’s risk of certain types of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, esophageal and pancreatic. A listing in the report does not by itself mean that a substance will cause cancer, say toxicology experts. Many factors, including the amount and duration of exposure, as well as an individual's susceptibility, can affect whether you develop cancer.

Cell Phones:People who use a mobile phone for 10 years or more are more likely to develop a glioma—the most common type of brain tumor—than those who use it less. Radio frequency radiation may be to blame, say researchers. If you must stay connected, experts recommend texting rather than calling or using an earpiece, speakerphone or a land line whenever possible.

Apples:This classic American fruit is currently the most pesticide-contaminated produce you can buy—even after it’s been washed and peeled, according to an annual report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public health advocacy group. Ninety-two percent of the apples tested contained two or more pesticides that are known to be toxic to the nervous system and can cause cancer and disrupt hormones. Love your fruit? The EWG recommends buying organic apples or switching to a safer alternative, such as pineapples. For the complete list of the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen,” click here.

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First Published June 14, 2011

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