Chemical dust

What we know about the chemical composition of household dust is one of the most revealing facts about chemical pollution in our homes.

Another of the more worrying facts is that we are constantly inhaling this dust, ensuring that a wide range of pollutants are entering our bloodstream through respiration. Each day we breathe between 15,000 and 20,000 litres of air and spend around 90% of our time in enclosed spaces.

In 2009, various US scientific institutions, supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, published a rather revealing report. They took air samples from different rooms in the house, finding more than 400 chemical compounds. For example, there were traces of DDT in most houses and of PCBs in more than half of them, even though these substances have been banned for a long time. There were also high levels of pesticides such as diazinon and chloropyrifos. There were, of course, pollutants such as phthalates and fragrances in large quantities. There were at least 120 unidentified chemicals (many of them with similar structures to those of the fragrances).

In 2003, the University of Exeter in the UK analysed, on behalf of Greenpeace, dust from several houses in different European countries e.g. Spain. The sample was intended to be typical of what we breathe in a conventional home. Alkylphenols, phthalates, the insecticide Permethrin, flame retardants, organostannic compounds and chlorinated parraffins were all detected. These chemicals have all been associated with different health problems by various scientific studies, often at low concentration levels, such as cancer, nerve damage, hormonal changes and changes in the immune system.

Other studies have only focused on measuring some hormonal pollutants in homes, such as alkylphenols or phthalates, producing equally disturbing results.

For example, it has been shown that situations such as these regarding the concentration of pollutants (e.g. phthalates, bisphenol A, alkylphenols) can originate in the more susceptible sectors of the population e.g. children, and this is causing great concern.

The toxic chemicals that make up the chemical composition of household dust come from a variety of different things we have in our homes, such as those we can see in other sections of this site: household appliances and electronic equipment, PVC floors, fabrics, furniture, rugs and carpets, cleaning products, paint, toys, hygiene products, perfumes, air fresheners, household pesticides etc.

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