NRDC - Toxic Dust: The Dangerous Chemical Brew in Every Home

September 13, 2016

By: Veena Singla

Excerpt: As I was frantically cleaning my apartment last month in preparation for a visit from my parents, I paused for a moment to stare at the dark smudge on the damp cloth I was dusting with. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that little dust smudge contains a whole universe of toxic chemicals – chemicals that pollute the globe and build up in wildlife and humans, that can cause cancer, or are linked to birth defects in babies.

Never, that is, until I collaborated on a new study to put together all the data we have on chemicals in U.S. indoor dust with scientists from George Washington UniversitySilent Spring InstituteHarvard University and University of California- San Francisco. Dust is the common congregation place for all kinds of chemicals that migrate out of everyday products in our homes-- flooring, furniture, personal care products, cleaning products and myriad others. So our idea was that by looking at dust, and the individual chemicals in dust, we could reveal the bigger picture of chemical contamination in the home—just like individual dots in an impressionist painting create a larger image. And what we found paints a disturbing picture of what’s really inside home sweet home across America.

The dust in U.S. homes is chock-full of hazardous chemicals from our products—phthalates,flame retardants, and other toxic chemicals are unwelcome visitors in each and every one of our homes. Even worse, the chemicals don’t stop there—they can waltz right into our bodies when we breathe contaminated air or dust, touch contaminated dust, and accidentally get dust in our mouths from our hands. These chemicals pose health hazards including cancer, hormone disruption, and toxicity to the reproductive system. …

Products with these chemicals don’t belong in our homes; hazardous chemicals linked to adverse health effects should be removed and replaced with safer alternatives.  With recent reforms to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA finally has the opportunity to start protecting the public from toxic chemicals; we’re working hard to stand up to the chemical industry and ensure strong implementation of the new law.

In the meantime, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your families from toxic dust, including:

  • Remove dust from your hands. Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently, and always before eating. Use plain soap and water, avoiding fragranced and antibacterial soaps.
  • Keep household dust to a minimum. Dust with a damp cloth, regularly go over floors with a wet mop, and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • 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.
Everyday Chemical Exposures