Toxic Dust Bunnies May Harm Health
Studies show that household dust may contain harmful toxins like lead, arsenic, sulfates, and acid aerosols, among many others.
Scientists at the University of Arizona created a computer model that can track the way air and soil particles get dispersed throughout the home. They found that the majority of indoor house dust actually comes from outside. But the contents of the dust are most concerning of all since they can be ingested or inhaled, and thus harm your health. One good way to prevent this is to use HEPA air purifiers in your home.
Dust Content Concerns
Dust comes in many forms, from small particles that can float in the air to larger particles that settle on the ground. They can be composed of both organic and inorganic compounds like dead skin cells, soil tracked-in on footwear, organic fibers, or airborne dust particles that get blown in from outdoors. One big concern is the way people track in outdoor contaminants. Once inside the home, they settle into layers of dust that may become airborne if disturbed. Walking throughout the house kicks up dust and causes it to spread further. That poses concern about the inhalation of contaminants. Researchers also note that dust has a way of hanging around, even with cleaning. In many dust floor samples, scientists find things like DDT, a pesticide that was banned decades ago.
Dust Study – Indoor vs. Outdoor Sources
The University of Arizona study, "Migration of Contaminated Soil and Airborne Particulates to Indoor Dust," was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. In it, researchers derived a computer formula to track contaminants coming into the home from outside.
From this model, they concluded that around 60% of floor dust actually comes from outside through soil tracked in on shoes and particles in the air. The researchers were particularly interested in this ratio because it provides a measure of the amount of toxic exposure people could face from a nearby waste site. That can help cleanup crews prioritize their efforts. The model contains many variables that affect a home's dust level. The amount of soil that comes in from outside depends on the number of family members, for example. It also depends on how much time people spend outside. Pets are another significant factor. And the issue of toxic substances is lessened for those who don't live near sites of significant contamination.
The CNN news article Toxic Chemicals Are Hiding In Your House Dust further highlights the toxicity of common household dust. More information on the hidden hazards of common household dust can found here: What’s The Deal With Dust?, Toxicity And The Truth About Dust, Tips For Reducing Airborne Dust In Your Home, and House Dust Mites: What You Can Do About Them
Researchers in Canada studied the same issue through the Canadian House Dust Study, an unrelated, ongoing four-year project. But they were having difficulties getting accurate measures that can generalize to everyone. As spokesperson for Health Canada, Gary Holub, noted, "The relative contributions of outdoor and indoor sources are highly variable." In the first phase of the Canadian study, researchers found inconsistent levels of lead in dust, even amongst houses in the same neighborhood. That would call into question the idea that proximity to waste sites inherently increases dust toxicity.
Children More At Risk
Both U.S. and Canadian researchers agreed that children are at higher risk because of their size and the way they play. As any parent knows, children often touch things and then put their fingers in their mouths or even put the objects in their mouths. That raises the possibility of ingestion of harmful contaminants. As Holub points out, "Indoor dust can be swallowed by young children through normal hand-to-mouth activities, and in that way, they can become exposed to any chemicals which are in the dust."
The University of Arizona study found that lead levels in children's blood strongly correlated with the levels of lead found in house dust, and other scientists have shown that toxic flame retardants banned for use in children's pajamas, but still allowed in furniture, end up in household dust where children get exposed to them.
Take Preventative Measures
Parents can address this with several simple preventative measures. The goal is not to let dust settle inside the home. Since more than 60% is tracked in on shoes, you should consider leaving shoes outside the door. You can also get a vacuum that uses a HEPA filter. Consider dusting with a damp cloth to prevent particles from becoming airborne and being inhaled. You should also regularly change the filters on your air conditioning unit.
Finally, get a room HEPA air purifier to reduce the airborne contaminants in your home and improve indoor air quality. HEPA filters, by definition, remove 99.97% of airborne particles of at least 0.3 microns. They are a powerful force in removing airborne pollutants and particles ensuring they don’t recirculate throughout your home and end up in your children’s lungs.
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- Administration Staff