Researchers at George Washington University compiled data from household dust samples collected throughout the United States and found 45 potentially toxic chemicals used in many common products, such as vinyl flooring, personal care and cleaning products, building materials, and furniture.
The study, titled “Consumer Product Chemicals in Indoor Dust: A Qualitative Meta-Analysis of U.S. Studies,” was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on Sept. 14.
The study identified ten of the most toxic chemicals and found these were present in 90 percent of the dust samples. The most common toxic chemical in dust is Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).
DEHP is often used to make plastics more flexible; it is used in products such as toothbrushes and food packaging. DEHP and other chemicals in the same class, phthalates, may interfere with hormones and may negatively impact children’s IQ and cause respiratory problems. DEHP was found in 100 percent of samples.
Another chemical found in dust was the cancer-causing agent, TDCIPP, used as a flame retardant in furniture, baby products, and other items.
Other chemicals from cell phones, pizza boxes, and numerous other products were found. The health problems linked to these chemicals vary widely, from immune system deficiencies to digestive problems.
To avoid health problems caused by toxic dust, the researchers suggest washing hands often with plain soap and water (not fragranced or antibacterial soaps), keeping household dust to a minimum by vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and mopping frequently, and searching for safer products.
Resources for helping find safer products include the websites of Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and Healthy Babies, Bright Futures.
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