We are a society obsessed with cleanliness. Walk up and down the aisles at any supermarket and it’s hard to miss the plethora of house cleaning products lining the shelves. Homeowners around the country work tirelessly trying to obtain the unobtainable – a dust free home.
It turns out that house dust is more than just a nuisance, it’s toxic mix of chemicals with the potential to seriously harm our family’s health.
A new study found that household dust harbors a cocktail of toxic chemicals that have been linked to an increased risk of a range of health hazards, from cancer to fertility issues.
“We think our homes are a safe haven but unfortunately they are being polluted by toxic chemicals from all our products,” said Veena Singla, a co-author of the study from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The scientists who authored the study cautioned that children were particularly vulnerable to the health effects of contaminated dust as they often play or crawl on the floor and frequently touch their mouths. “They end up having a lot more exposure to chemicals in dust and they are more vulnerable to toxic effects because their brains and bodies are still developing,” said Singla.
The researchers highlighted 45 toxic chemicals in indoor dust, 10 of which were present in 90% or more of the dust samples – these included flame retardants, fragrances, and phthalates.
Where do the toxic chemicals in dust come from?
Air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk according to estimates. Americans typically spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors. In 2012, around 7 million people died, one in eight of total global deaths, as a result of air pollution. 4.3 million of those deaths were attributable to indoor air pollution.
Toxic chemicals found in the very products we’re using to clean our homes can be a significant source of dust and indoor air pollution. Hazardous chemicals found in our beauty products, candles, furniture, carpets, and flooring can also be released into the air. These chemicals, including phthalates and flame retardants, are released into the air and ultimately turn into dust that can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Even small amounts of dust exposure can add up over time.
How can you reduce household dust levels?
There are a few simple steps we can take to protect our families from toxic dust, including:
- Make the switch to non-toxic products. Spend time educating yourself on which ingredients to avoid when purchasing beauty products and cleaning solutions.
- Seek out furniture, carpets and flooring free from toxic chemicals.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before eating. Make sure to avoid antibacterial soaps and any soaps with fragrance.
- Vacuum floors regularly and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Clean flooring with a wet mop
- Dust furniture and fixtures with a damp cloth
- Use the Silent Spring Detox Me app. This free smartphone app walks you through simple, research-based tips on how to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals where you live and work, and it keeps track of your progress.
- HERE are a few more ways to improve your indoor air quality.