A recent 2016 study from Environmental Science & Technology: “Consumer Product Chemicals in Indoor Dust: A Quantitative Meta-analysis of U.S. Studies” has shown that what we just think of as household dust is actually quite a bit more dangerous than it first appears. We have known for quite a while that household dust contains mold and mold spores, but it turns out that after extensive study we better understand that indoor dust is also often a reservoir for commercial consumer product chemicals, including many compounds with known or suspected health effects. The concern is that many chemicals in dust share hazard traits such as reproductive and endocrine toxicity.

People in developed countries spend more than 90% of their time in indoor environments, creating an important link between indoor environmental quality and public health. Consumer products and building materials including furniture, electronics, personal care and cleaning products, and floor and wall coverings contain chemicals that can leach, migrate, abrade, or off-gas from products resulting in human exposure. Consequently, chemicals such as phthalates, phenols, flame retardants, and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) are widely detected in the U.S. general population, including vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children. Exposure to one or more of these chemical classes has been associated with adverse health effects including reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, cognitive and behavioral impairment in children, cancer, asthma, immune dysfunction, and chronic disease.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to chemical exposures from dust since they crawl, play on the floor, and frequently put their hands in their mouths.

In conclusion, this comprehensive analysis of consumer product chemicals in U.S. indoor dust suggests that a wide array of chemicals used in everyday products find their way into indoor environments across the country where people, including vulnerable subpopulations like children, are continuously exposed. In this way, the indoor environment is a haven for chemicals associated with reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, cancer and other health effects.