Know your environment

Learn how to reduce your exposure to cancer-causing substances (carcinogens).

Many Canadians are worried about whether anything around them at home and work causes cancer. Any substance that is known to cause cancer is called a carcinogen.

The Canadian Cancer Society shares your concerns. We believe that you shouldn’t be exposed to carcinogens at work, at home or in the environment. But we need a lot more research to help us understand what is and what isn’t linked to cancer.

We believe carcinogens should be replaced with safer options. If it isn’t possible to get rid of a carcinogen or find something safer, reduce the time you spend around it as much as possible.

In this section, you’ll find lots of information about some carcinogens in the environment that may be harmful – and learn how to protect yourself or use them safely

Aerial view of a city with office towers and other buildings

Learn about carcinogens in your environment

Take steps to avoid carcinogens or reduce the time you are around them.
Air pollution coming from an industrial area

Air pollution

Air pollution is a mixture of chemicals, particles and other materials in the air in amounts that could damage the environment or harm the health or comfort of humans, animals and plants. You can be exposed to air pollution outside and inside.
Person testing tap water in their home for arsenic


Arsenic is a substance found in rocks and soil that occurs naturally. Some areas of Canada have higher levels of arsenic in drinking water.
Caution sign for asbestos


Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral used in construction and other industries because it is durable and resists high heat. Exposure to asbestos is highest for people who work with it.

Firefighter in full gear and oxygen mask in a smokey area


Formaldehyde is a chemical found in smoke and exhaust. Most exposure happens at workplaces that work with it, but some people may be exposed in their homes.
Patient in a hospital bed wearing a gown

Medical radiation

Some medical imaging tests and some types of cancer treatment use ionizing radiation. Often the benefits of exposure outweigh the risks.

Underground subway tunnel with lights illuminating it


Radon is a radioactive gas found naturally in the environment. Exposure happens in homes when radon seeps into enclosed spaces.
Tractor spraying crops with pesticides


Researchers are continuously studying to determine if other substances increase cancer risk.