The dust bunnies under your bed may be hazardous to your health. A new study has discovered that common household dust contains up to 45 toxic chemicals.1
Researchers from George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Heath analyzed dust from homes in 14 states. They found unhealthy compounds that fell into five categories: phthalates, phenols, flame retardants, fragrances, and highly fluorinated substances.
Many of the dust chemicals are linked to serious health conditions. These include cancer, hormone disruption, and fertility problems.2 The researchers found that 90% of dust samples contained at least 10 harmful chemicals and as many as 45.
Dr. Ami Zota is an assistant professor at George Washington University and a study co-author. “People, especially children, are exposed on a daily basis to multiple chemicals in dust that are linked to serious health problems,” she said.
The chemicals in household dust come from consumer products and construction materials. They include vinyl flooring, furniture, cleaning products, perfumes… Even pizza boxes and microwave popcorn.3
Children are most at risk because they crawl on the floor, where most household dust lurks, researchers said.
5 Nasty Chemicals in Household Dust
How bad can the chemicals in dust be?
Phthalates are linked to obesity and insulin resistance in adolescents. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission has banned some phthalates from children’s products. Phthalates are in many types of plastics.4
Phenols are linked to diarrhea, vertigo, abnormal brain and body growth, and liver disease. They are used in many different products including antiseptics, hair coloring, herbicides, and glues.5
Flame retardants are often used in carpet padding, furniture, and building insulation. They are tied to cancer and asthma, lower IQ, and reduced fertility.6
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Fragrances come not only from perfume, but soaps and other household cleaners, fabric softeners, and personal care products. Chemicals in fragrances include acetone, benzaldehyde, camphor, and methyl chloride. They are linked to kidney damage, central nervous disorders, and respiratory failure.7,8
Highly fluorinated chemicals come from nonstick pans, carpeting, and products treated to repel water. They are linked to brain cancer and leukemia.9
Researchers say the combination of the many different substances in dust likely has a synergistic effect that makes it much more dangerous than single chemicals.
Get Rid of the Poison in Your Home
Here are ways to reduce toxic dust in your house:
HEPA vacuum. Make sure your vacuum cleaner has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filter. They can filter out over 99% of harmful particles.
Air purifiers. Newer ones remove not only dust, but smaller, microscopic particles that can be harmful.
Open windows. Simply opening a window can help rid your home of dust. Fresh outside air dilutes suspended dust particles.
Fans. Use vented exhaust fans in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry area.
Quarantine the bad stuff. Never store paints, solvents, glues, pesticides or other toxic chemicals near your living quarters. Keep them in your garage or in an outdoor storage area.
Wipe it away. Frequently wipe down surfaces that are prone to collecting dust with a damp cloth. And wash your hands afterward.10
There’s one more great way to keep toxic substances out of your home. We recently told you how NASA cleans the air in their space stations. Find out more here.
In Good Health,
Executive Director, INH Health Watch