Is Your House Killing You? These Building Materials Are Known Carcinogens

You stock your home with the most nontoxic products out there and set your home up to be a healthy living environment. Unfortunately, you might still be putting your health at great risk. You could even be raising your risk of getting cancer. As it turns out, there could be carcinogens living in your home’s building materials. Afraid for your health now? Knowing what materials are bad is half the battle.

Floor tiles

Worker placing ceramic floor tile

Tiles might contain asbestos. | yunava1/iStock/Getty Images

Vinyl flooring has been a popular choice for homes for decades now. Most vinyl flooring contains asbestos, which helps the tiles trap heat and maintain their durability. However, asbestos fibers are carcinogens. Breathing in the fibers can lead to respiratory problems and lung disease. For this reason, a professional should always remove tile flooring. (Skip the weekend DIY project with this one.)


White upholstery in a home on HGTV's 'Fixer Upper'

Home textiles can contain some nasty chemicals. | HGTV

Home textiles and carpet backing are just two of the materials in your home that can contain phthalates. These chemicals are carcinogenic and target the body’s endocrine system, according to the National Center for Healthy Housing. But there is hope. As Healthy Building Network explains, many buildings have made the move to using phthalate-free products.


gloved person handling insulation

Be careful with how often you’re exposed to insulation. |

The National Center for Healthy Housing tells us foam insulation contains flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. Although these chemicals may prevent fires, they are also known carcinogens. Studies have found overexposure to PBDEs can lead to problems with the liver, thyroid, and reproductive organs.

Pressure-treated wood

Carpenter woodworking

Your wood floors might have some harsh chemicals. | Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

If your home was built before the early 2000s, it likely contains wood that is pressure-treated with a pesticide called chromated copper arsenate, or CCA. As the name suggests, this pesticide contains arsenic, a well-known carcinogen. Thankfully, newer homes are far less likely to contain wood treated with CCA because of efforts to get the Environmental Protection Agency to ban it. Although there reportedly has never been a full-on ban, there is an effort to voluntarily not use CCA wood for construction.

Carpet cleaner

Housewife cleaning carpet

That carpet cleaner isn’t harmless. | scyther5/iStock/Getty Images

The National Center for Healthy Housing tells us that perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, was used in cleaner for carpets and furniture. This chemical breakdown caused a number of cancers in lab study rats, including liver cancer. The EPA has not full-on banned the use of PFOS, but it has phased it out and insisted on the use of less toxic products in its place.


Painter in paint splattered shirt

Take care with what paint you choose. | alessandroguerriero/iStock/Getty Images

It’s extra important to check the paint used in your home to make sure it doesn’t contain formaldehyde. This carcinogen gas can cause all sorts of respiratory problems, and people can detect it in the air because of its strong gasoline-like smell. Luckily, many building and household products are now made formaldehyde-free to lower the risk.

Anything coated with Teflon

Hanging pots in kitchen

Teflon is also in pots and pans. | Berryspun/iStock/Getty Images

There is an array of building materials coated with Teflon, especially fiberglass. But Teflon is also made with perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is a very toxic carcinogen. It is linked to several forms of cancer and tumor growth, the American Cancer Society says.

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