The bad stuff in your house dust

March 2, 2010 by  
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Is your house dust killing you and your family? Now, before you start panicking and reach for the vacuum cleaner, let me get this clear: This hasn’t got anything to do with your qualities as a housewife. It is a fact of life that things gather dust. Besides, we cannot live in a sterile environment and a little dirt doesn’t hurt anybody. In fact, health experts believe  dirty can be sometimes healthy.

However, what the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is trying to say is that house dust as such is not that bad but toxic house dust is very bad.

Let us take a look as to where these dust all come from. Here are some of the components of house dust, according to EWG:

  • pet dander
  • fungal spores
  • human hair and skin
  • soil tracked in on your feet
  • carpet fibers
  • other tiny particles
  • home-use chemicals
  • chemicals shed by household appliances

Although most of these are potential allergens, the latter two is the baddest of the lot and that’s what this post is focusing on.

A study by the Silent Spring Institute has identified 66 compounds in the normal household dust which have endocrine-disrupting properties. The most common of these compounds are brominated flame retardants, pesticides and phthalates. In this post, let’s focus on the fire retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

What are PBDEs?

PBDEs are present in a lot of home appliance including your TV, computers, and furniture. PBDEs are fire resistant and are added to flammable synthetic materials to make consumer products less combustible. However, these products “shed” PBDEs as PBDEs degrade with time, so that flame retardant particles settle with the house dust.  

A 2004 EWG study revealed high levels of PBDEs in house dusts. The three main PBDEs used in manufacturing industries are the Penta, Octa, and Deca. Penta and Octa have supposedly been banned in the US since 2004 but Deca is still commonly used. Deca is predominant in the house dust sampled by EWG.

What are the health effects of toxic house dust?

How do we reduce the amount of toxic dust in our homes?

Aside from cleaning our house from top to bottom (which realistically we can’t do every day), the best way to reduce toxic dust is to reduce the amount of toxins coming in in the first place. Let’s take a look at EWG’s recommendations:

Photo credits: stock.xchng

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One Response to “The bad stuff in your house dust”
  1. Sylvie Roth says:

    I think the commercially available ozonators would help with the toxic household dust problem. They act as air purifiers, but are better than the ones that just use a filter, I’ve tested them on several mobile homes and they worked wonders. Toxic dust is not my biggest concern, recently researchers discovered that the active ingredient in antimicrobial soaps and personal care products causes nerve damage, how’s that for bad news?

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