Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Household dust is laced with toxic chemicals, study finds

By Mary Brophy Marcus CBS News September 14, 2016, 5:28 AM
Household dust is laced with toxic chemicals, study finds

Household dust does more than collect in corners and on bookshelves full of novels you haven’t gotten around to reading. A new study shows it can expose people to a wide range of potentially toxic chemicals.

In what the authors are calling the first study of its kind – a meta-analysis of more than two dozen previous studies on chemicals in dust – they report that 90 percent of dust samples taken from houses in 14 states contain harmful chemicals, including one that’s known to cause cancer.

“Most studies only measure a few chemicals so it makes it hard to understand typical exposures in homes and work places,” said the study’s lead author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environment and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.


The chemicals studied come from all sorts of common consumer goods, including furniture, personal hygiene products, flooring, baby products, cleaning supplies, fast food and food packaging. Zota said the chemicals are released into the air and then seep into dust that settles on furniture and floors. People can inhale or ingest small particles of dust or even absorb them through the skin.


Ten harmful chemicals were found in 90 percent of the dust samples tested. Phthalates, used in toys and vinyl flooring, among other products, occurred in the highest concentrations.

They were followed by phenols, often used in cleaning products. Then came flame retardants, fragrances and perflouroalkyl substances, which are used in carpets, textiles, and leather to make them water-, oil- and stain-repellent and to create grease-proof and waterproof coatings for products such as paper plates and food packaging.

“Phthalates are linked to multiple health hazards, including reproductive,” Signla said. “And some flame retardants are linked to cancer.”


Chemicals of top concern:

TCEP - A flame retardant added to couches, baby products, electronics and other products [This might be the cause of the epidemic of hyperthyroidism in pet cats.]

DEP, DEHP, BBzP and DnBP – These chemicals, different varieties of phthalates, are found in an array of drugstore items like those listed above, as well as some highly processed foods and fast food. Phthalates are also linked to IQ and respiratory problems in children.

PFOA and PFOS - These chemicals​ are found in cellphones, pizza boxes and many non-stick, waterproof and stain-resistant products. They’ve been linked to developmental problems​ and issues with the immune, digestive, and endocrine systems.


The authors said small amounts can add up over time and potentially impact health.


“We know so little about fragrance chemicals. They’re a prime example of the problem of not having information on what’s in our products because companies claim trade secrets,” Singla said.


In your own home, day-to-day, washing your hands​​ with plain soap and water can cut down on the amount of dust you come into contact with. Vacuuming with a HEPA-filter, wet mopping and dusting with a damp cloth can reduce exposure to dust, as well.

In the longer term, she said, “There are regulatory and legislative solutions. It does make a difference when people tell their government agencies that this matters to them and they’re concerned.” Singla also noted that the Natural Resources Defense Council has a petition for the FDA to ban phthalates from food, which supporters can sign online.

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