Organic Consumers Association

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Dust Particles Are Probably Quite Toxic

If you are like most Americans, you spend up to 90 percent of your day indoors. Whether you’re at home, in the car or at work, your hours are spent breathing indoor air.

Since your very life depends upon the air you breathe, it is vital you understand the risks associated with your indoor air quality and how to reduce the chemicals in your environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states the levels of indoor air pollution may be between two and five times higher inside your home or work than they are outside.1 Some indoor pollutants can be as much as 100 times more concentrated than outdoor levels.

The differences are related to the type of pollutants, the relative lack of air exchange in newer homes and the chemicals you may introduce to your home in your furniture, personal care, home and cleaning products. According to the EPA, poor air quality is one of the top public health risks today.2

While these factors are important to your health, dust plays another important role in your air quality. Recent research has identified chemical pollutants residing in the dust floating in the air and in the dust bunnies under your furniture.

Dust Is More Than Dirt

Dust is anything that breaks down into small enough particles that it can be moved by air currents outside or in your home. The dust in your home is actually a combination of dust and dirt from outside, combined with skin cells, pet dander and a number of other particles that vary from home to home.

Tiny fibers from your clothing, lint that flakes from your carpet and furniture, skin cells, fibers of human and pet hair and a number of other small particles may be found floating around your home or stuck under your furniture. The composition of dust may be complex and contain more than small particles of lint and dirt.

Paloma Beamer, Ph.D., associate professor in the school of Public Health at the University of Arizona, has spent years thinking about and studying dust. She calculates one-third of the dust in your home comes from indoor inorganic sources and two-thirds from soil and outdoor air particles tracked into your home.3

The composition of dust is complex, and so is the composition of one particle. According to Andrea Ferro, Ph.D., who teaches courses in air pollution at Clarkson University in New York, a dust particle can be a simple inorganic or organic compound, but others may have an inorganic center and an organic coating.

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