|A microscopic look at dust.|
We are surrounded by it – in our homes, cars, and places where we work, worship, play, and relax - Dust. It’s everywhere, but what is it?
- Insect parts
- Dust Mites
- Skin and Hair Particles (from people and pets)
- Animal Dander
- Pesticides (from your lawn or places you’ve visited)
- Chemicals such as flame retardants and phthalates
- Bits of auto tires and brake pads
Metals, such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and copper also linger in our dust. Before lead was removed from gasoline, paint, and other products, it was spread throughout our environment. For almost 100 years, arsenic, lead, and other contaminants were blown into Thurston, Pierce, Kitsap, and King Counties from the now-closed ASARCO copper smelter in Ruston, Washington.
The concentration of pollutants in house dust, particularly in older homes with older carpet, may be 2 to 32 times higher than the soil outside the home. Normal vacuuming removes surface dirt but does not get out deep dust that builds up in carpets. A deep vacuuming (8-25 vacuum passes over each area of carpet) can help reduce this reservoir of deep dust and the associated pollutants.
How can I reduce contact with dust?
- Avoid wearing shoes in the house. Take them off at the door. If you prefer to wear shoes in the house, designate a pair of “house shoes.” Place a commercial door mat at each door to help bring in less of whatever’s outside.
- Make sure your vacuum is working properly. Change your vacuum bag before it is completely full and check the vacuum belt. Try to vacuum several times a week.
- Use a damp cloth when dusting and try to dust exposed areas (including floors with hard surfaces) weekly.
- Wash children’s toys in warm soapy water often to keep dust from settling on them.
- Wash your hands and face before eating. We get dust and dirt on our hands and face throughout the day.
- Keep pets clean and brushed.
Parents with small children or anyone who is “housebound” should especially try to follow these tips. The health risks to babies from pollutants in house dust may be 100 times greater than for adults. In addition to being much smaller than adults, they spend more time on or near the floor and tend to put items in their mouths. Early contact with pollutants among the very young is associated with higher rates of chronic illness such as asthma, lower I.Q., ADHD, and cancer.
Now that you know what is in dust and how to reduce exposure, you can take simple healthy actions to reduce your family’s contact with it.