Eco-friendly, Environmental Hazards

There May Be Toxic Chemicals In Your Household Dust

Young children and pets are particularly at risk for exposure to toxic chemicals in dust.
Photo: Shutterstock

The dust in your house could be exposing you and your family to many toxic chemicals.

A team of researchers at George Washington University examined data from household dust samples from around the U.S. and put together a report detailing the top 10 toxic materials found in that dust.

How do toxins get into dust? Many products ranging from vinyl flooring to furniture to cleaners and building materials have these chemicals in them. Young children and pets have a disproportionate risk of exposure because they are closest to the floor and clean themselves or put their hands in their mouths.

TCEP, a flame retardant added to couches, baby products, electronic, and other products, had the highest estimated intake.

Next on the intake list were four phthalates. These chemicals are thought to interfere with hormones in the body and are linked to an array of health issues including respiratory problems and decreased IQ.

Highly fluorinated chemicals are found in cell phones, pizza boxes, and many non-stick products. Exposure to these substances has been linked to health problems of the immune, digestive, developmental, and endocrine systems.

“The number and levels of toxic and untested chemicals that are likely in every one of our living rooms was shocking to me,” says Veena Singla, Ph.D., staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-author of the study. “Harmful chemicals used in everyday products and building materials result in widespread contamination of our homes.”

The problem is that these studies, while alarming, may actually underestimate the exposure faced by young children and pets.

So what’s a person to do if they want to reduce their family’s exposure to these toxic chemicals?

The study’s authors recommend using a strong vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter in order to keep household dust levels low. They also recommend washing hands frequently and searching out personal care and household products that don’t contain these chemicals.

What do you do to minimize your and your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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