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Is lung cancer hiding in your dryer?

Dear Dr. Roach: I heard that air fresheners and dryer sheets can cause lung cancer. Is it true?


Dear PG: What is true is that these products release volatile organic compounds, according to a 2011 study. VOCs encompass a large group of chemicals, some of which will increase cancer risk if ingested in high enough doses. for a sufficiently long period.

Some of these include alcohol and acetaldehyde, both of which are known or probable carcinogens. Nevertheless, people ingest alcohol at high levels and acetaldehyde is found, among other places, in ripe fruits.

The study found products listed as “organic”, “green”, “natural” or “non-toxic” that contained similar amounts of potentially toxic or dangerous chemicals. The type of study precluded any assessment of the magnitude of risk from exposure to these chemicals. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated less than a 1 in 100,000 chance of developing cancer from continued exposure to acetaldehyde. The effect of multiple volatile organic compounds acting together has not been studied.

To say that “air fresheners cause lung cancer” is sensational and doesn’t really address the factors a person should be concerned about, such as the level of exposure to something that is necessary to develop a risk and the degree of risk of develop lung cancer. to use fabric softeners with the laundry.

It is clear that these products can cause allergic reactions. I see respiratory symptoms and rashes quite frequently. However, my best guess from the studies I have read is that the risk of developing cancer from these products is very, very low.

Dear Dr. Roach: I am writing to you on behalf of my 91 year old father, who has been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. He has seen a specialist, who is ready to perform the surgery. My dad’s symptoms include numbness (lack of feeling) in his fingers to the point that he can’t easily button shirts and tie shoelaces. Is there a treatment you could recommend that would directly address the numbness? My father feels little pain and has no gripping problems. He wonders if nerve compression could be coming from his neck and shoulder, and if chiropractic care, massage or physical range of motion therapy could be the answer. He is very hesitant to have surgery.


Dear TS: Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by nerve compression in the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a true tunnel of space lined by the carpal (wrist) bones and their ligaments, and by a connective tissue structure called the flexor retinaculum.

Compression is alleviated by surgical release of the retinaculum, which gives the nerve sufficient space. Surgery is the definitive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, but surgery is not always necessary. Lifestyle changes, such as wearing a wrist brace, and medications can sometimes prevent a person from needing surgery.

You haven’t given any good reason why your father needs surgery right now. Surgery in anyone over the age of 91 should not be taken lightly, even carpal tunnel release, which is a very successful surgery with a low rate of complications. But a low complication rate doesn’t mean zero, and I recently saw a patient whose nerve was damaged by surgery.

Prior to surgery, the surgeon must be absolutely certain that nerve compression is occurring in the wrist, and not in the shoulder or neck. Your father will need an EMG study. If surgery is needed because other treatments haven’t worked or there are signs of serious nerve damage, such as muscle weakness or atrophy, I highly recommend contacting a hand surgeon. , who has special expertise in this surgery.

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