We are not particularly worried about dust bunnies on the ground, probably unsightly, but which seems to be just a mixture of hair and dog or cat hair.
However, an American study published in 2016 shows that it is much more than that.
What we call "dust" is actually a complex combination of fibers, fine particles, minerals, scales, heavy metals, chemicals, pollen, spores, moulds...
According to this meta-analysis of studies conducted in the United States, this dust is a real reservoir of chemicals derived from materials and consumer goods in our daily environment. Unfortunately, many toxic chemical compounds in dust can have deleterious effects on health that are known or suspected to be so.
Among the chemicals that can be found in indoor dust, analytical results almost systematically indicate the presence of chemicals of the following classes: phthalates (present at the highest concentrations), followed by phenols, flame retardants and PFAS (perfluoroalkyles).
Phthalates, Phenols, Flame Retardants and Perluoroalkyls are pollutants that are very present in dust and are markers of the air pollution that we breathe daily
What pollutants are found in the dust?
Phthalates and flame retardants are the main pollutants found in dust. These are chemicals that have recognized reproductive and endocrine toxicity characteristics. According to health authorities, these pollutants are of great concern to public health.
Phthalates are chemicals that are used in the vast majority of plastics and some cosmetics.
They are used to modify the chemical properties (flexibility, hardness, etc.) of polymers that are the main components of plastics.
Phthalates are the chemical markers of plastic pollution.
Phthalates have been widely used for more than 60 years and are now omnipresent in large quantities in our daily environment. Due to their high toxicity to humans, their use is increasingly regulated and controlled within Europe.
There are dozens of different types of phthalates but the most common in house dust are DEHP (Di-Ethyl-Hexyl-Phtalate), BBzP (Butyl-Benzyl-Phtalate) and DBP (Di-Butyl-Phtalate).
Phthalates can represent up to 50% of the mass of plastic
Flame retardants are a class of additives used to minimize the risk of fire in synthetic (polymeric) materials.
Flame retardants are used in plastics, textiles, electronic circuits, thermal insulation (in buildings), printed circuits, thermoplastics (TV, telephones), household appliances, foams.
Flame retardants are present in a large number of consumer products
The most common flame retardants in our indoor environment are chlorinated or brominated organic compounds such as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Poly-Bromo-Diphenyl-Ether (PBDE), Hexa-Bromo-Cyclo-Dodecane (HCBD), Tetra-Bromo-Bisphenol-A (TBBPA) and organic organophosphate compounds such as Tri-Phenyl-Phosphate (TPhP).
These widely used chemicals have proven toxic effects on humans and their use is regulated. Organophosphates are known to be neurotoxic.
Phenols are particularly present in cosmetics, lotions and household products. These chemicals are proven endocrine disrupters.
These are bisphenols (Bisphenol A, BPA), parabens (preservatives) and alkylphenols (nonyl-phenols, octyl-phenols).
Phenol derivatives are used as additives in plastics (Bisphenol-A, BPA), as preservatives in cosmetics (Parabens) and surfactants in household products (alkylphenols)
Perfluoroalkyles [PFAS] are used in textiles as a stain repellent additive and in kitchen utensils for their non-stick properties (stoves, skillet...).
These are organic compounds with a high fluorine content such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
Perfluoroalkyles are persistent, accumulate in organisms and are suspected, in particular, of having toxic effects on reproduction (infertility) and increasing the risk of cancer and congenital diseases.
Perfuoroalkys (PFAS) are present in stain-free textiles and non-stick cooking utensils.
What are the health risks associated with these compounds?
Chronic, daily exposure to this cocktail of multiple chemicals clearly poses a health risk to occupants. Without taking into account a potential cocktail effect, the review of toxicological properties shows effects on reproduction and development, disruption of the endocrine system and increased risk of cancer.
Chronic, daily exposure to this cocktail of multiple chemicals clearly poses a health risk to occupants.
Without taking into account a potential cocktail effect, the review of toxicological properties shows in particular:
Respiratory disorders ;
Liver and digestive disorders;
Immunological disorders ;
Increases in cancer risk;
The toxicity of a substance sometimes depends on its ability to accumulate in the body and some of these substances are bioaccumulative and/or persistent in the environment.
The findings of this meta-analysis are alarming because they show that our daily environment (family or professional) is polluted by a cocktail of chemicals whose toxic effects on human health have already been proven for each individual substance.
This significant indoor air pollution in homes and workplaces produces chronic exposure of occupants and health risks cannot be ruled out. Especially for pregnant or lactating women and children exposed to substances with endocrine disrupting effects.
In addition, it is highly likely that the health impacts on populations resulting from the multiplication of effects by chemical mixtures are significantly underestimated.
Why do a dust analysis?
A laboratory analysis of the dust in your home or workplace is the first step in assessing the level of pollution and, if necessary, implementing improvement actions to reduce pollution of the indoor environment and reduce occupant exposure.
Dust analysis makes it possible to identify with great precision which toxic substances are responsible for pollution and to identify the main sources of pollution.
The results obtained can be compared with those obtained in international scientific studies on indoor air pollution. This makes it possible to know whether the results are in the middle, low or high range and to act accordingly.
Secondly, dust analysis makes it possible to measure the effectiveness of the actions implemented to reduce pollution of the indoor environment.
YOOTEST's scientific team has developed a complete range of solutions that are very easy to use and benefit from the performance and reliability of laboratory analysis to measure air pollution and indoor environment.
Plasticizers Pollution TestIndoor air quality diagnosis to measure the pollution of the indoor environment by phthalate, bisphenol and organophosphate plasticizers. Test with laboratory analysis. Order your Test
(1) S.D. Mitro et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 2016, 50, 10661−10672