Chemicals found in household dust linked to cancer, developmental issues
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, September 14, 2016 12:23AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 14, 2016 12:26PM EDT
Everyday items like non-stick cookware, children’s toys, cosmetics, pizza boxes, and cellphones release toxic chemicals into the air that settle into the dust inside your home, a revelation that new research is linking to a host of serious health problems -- including cancer and developmental issues in children.
Ten harmful chemicals were found in 90 per cent of the dust samples compiled by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, including a flame retardant known to cause cancer commonly used in furniture, building materials and baby products.
The study is the first comprehensive analysis of consumer product chemicals found in household dust, according to its authors. Researchers at the Milken Institute pooled dust samples from 14 U.S. states previously collected for 26 peer-reviewed papers, and one unpublished data set.
"The findings suggest that people, and especially children, are exposed on a daily basis to multiple chemicals in dust that are linked to serious health problems," said lead author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the Milken Institute in Washington, D.C.
Infants and young children are said to be at the greatest risk because they crawl and play on dusty floors, and tend to put their hands in their mouths. The chemicals found in the dust have been linked to a range of issues, including obesity and reproductive problems, Zota told CTV News Channel Wednesday.
Chemicals belonging to a hazardous class called Phthalates were found to be the most common across the samples studied. Phthalates are often used to soften plastics in children’s toys and cosmetics. The substance has been linked to hormonal interference, as well as declines in IQ, and respiratory problems in children.
Researchers estimate the flame retardant chemical TCEP enters the body in the greatest quantity. It’s most often used in furniture, baby products, and electronics, and has been linked to cancer, as well as damage to the neurological and reproductive systems.
While the risks posed by household dust may seem small, researches warn that chemical concentrations can build up quickly, especially given the exposure risks outside the home.
"The intake numbers in this study probably underestimate the true exposure to such chemicals, which are also found on the drug store shelf and even in fast food," said the study’s authors. "Exposure to even small amounts of chemicals in combination can lead to amplified health risk, especially for developing infants and young mothers."
Zota encourages people to wash their hands and their children's hands frequently and to read labels to avoid using products with the problematic chemicals. She also recommends science-based smartphone apps, such as Detox Me.
"It walks you through research-based tips on how to reduce chemical exposure in your everyday environments."