- Dust commonly found in homes contains higher levels of harmful
- A meta-analysis conducted in the United States found top ten
toxic chemicals in household dust
- Phthalates were found at the highest levels in dust followed by
phenols and cancer-causing chemicals
found that household dust exposes people to a wide range of toxic chemicals
from everyday products. A multi-institutional team led by researchers at Milken
Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George
Washington University, analyzed the data from dust samples collected throughout
the United States to identify the top ten harmful chemicals commonly found in dust.
Hazardous Chemicals in Dust
meta-analysis showed that di(2- ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), a chemical
that belongs to the hazardous class called phthalates topped the list
Phthalates were found at the highest levels in dust followed by phenols and
flame retardant chemicals.
‘Household dust contains hazardous chemicals such as phthalates which are linked to asthma, breast cancer, obesity, infertility, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.’
Lead author of
the study, Ami Zota, ScD, MS, assistant professor of environmental and
occupational health at Milken Institute SPH, said, "Our study is the first
comprehensive analysis of consumer product chemicals found in household dust.
The findings suggest that people, and especially children, are exposed on a
daily basis to multiple chemicals in dust that is linked to serious health
Effects of Dust
can be visible or invisible, but the type and size of a dust particle determine
the toxicity of the dust. The amount of dust present in the air and duration of
exposure determine the possible harm the dust may cause. Some of the harmful causes of dust
released into the air, get into dust and settle on household items and floor.
Dust enters the body through inhalation or absorption of dust through the skin.
Infants and young children are at higher risk for exposure to chemicals found
in the dust because they crawl and play on the floor.
analyzed data from 26 peer-reviewed papers and one unpublished data that
analyzed dust samples taken from homes in 14 states in the US. The analysis
showed that there were 45 potentially toxic chemicals that are used in consumer
and household products such as beauty and personal care products, cleaning
products, vinyl flooring, building materials and home furnishings. The authors
said that "the meta-analysis combines information from smaller dust studies and
thus offers solid conclusions with greater statistical power."
The team found ten
harmful chemicals in 90% of the dust samples
, including a cancer-causing
Tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate (TDCIPP) across multiple studies. TDCIPP
is a flame retardant found in baby products, furniture and other household
items. Household dust contains four classes of harmful chemicals in high
The study found
that the levels of phthalates were high with a mean of 682 nanograms per gram
of dust. Phenols, used in cleaning products were the second highest chemical
class with higher concentrations followed by flame retardant chemicals and
fluorinated chemicals used to make non-stick cookware
. Flame retardant
chemicals are present in baby products, electronics, couches and other
Tris (2-carboxyethyl) phosphine,
(TCEP) had the highest estimated intake followed by four phthalates - Diethyl
phthalate (DEP), di(2- ethyl hexyl) phthalate (DEHP), Benzylbutylphthalate
(BBzP) and Di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP). "The intake numbers in this study may
underestimate the true exposure to such hazardous chemicals, which are also
found in drug store and fast food joints," said the authors.
Four classes of
phthalates found in the highest concentrations in dust are associated with many
serious health hazards. Phthalates are known to cause respiratory problems
in children and decline in IQ levels.
chemicals such as a Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic
acid (PFOS) are found in high concentrations in pizza boxes, cell phones, and
non-stick, waterproof and stain-resistant products. These chemicals lower
immunity and affect digestive and endocrine systems.
dust are linked to cancer development and reproductive toxicity.
Exposure to even small amounts of such chemicals in dust can cause
serious health complications, especially in infants, and young children.
PhD, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-author of the
study, said, "The number and levels of toxic and untested chemicals that
are likely in every one of our living rooms was shocking to me. Harmful
chemicals used in everyday products and building materials result in widespread
contamination of our homes—these dangerous chemicals should be replaced with
Robin Dodson, an
environmental exposure scientist at Silent Spring Institute, said,
"Consumers have the power to make healthier choices and protect themselves
from harmful chemicals in everyday products. These things can make a real
difference not only in their health but also in shifting the market toward
meta-analysis, "Consumer product chemicals in indoor dust: a quantitative
meta-analysis of U.S. studies," is published in the journal
Environmental Science & Technology.
Tips to Keep
Dust Levels Low
People should take a few simple steps to
reduce their exposure to chemicals in household dust and the environment.
- Sweep and mop the house regularly
- Use a strong vacuum to clean carpet and upholstery
- Wash hands frequently
- Clean floors, furniture, window frames and sills with a damp
- Avoid using products that contain harmful chemicals
- Health effects of dust - (http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/Health-effects-of-dust)