We have always understood that house dust is not particularly good. But if earlier, returning from work, we treated the accumulated dust as inevitable, now, when many people work and generally spend much more time at home, the problem has become more acute than ever.
How dangerous is dust under a sofa? And on the couch?
Dealing with dust and its consequences.
Wool, insect debris and pieces of skin
The dust doesn’t look intriguing, so you can’t blame the scientists for not researching it particularly well. And yet they did it.
For example, environmentalists and biochemists have launched a whole project called 360 Dust Analysis, for which dust from different households is first collected in bags and then carefully studied in a laboratory.
And although by the standards of scientific research they are only at the beginning of the journey, they already have something to tell us.
For example, scientists have found that about a third of house dust is created inside the house. The components differ depending on the characteristics of the dwelling and its age, microclimate, habits of residents (not only harmful, but also those related to the frequency of cleaning).
Therefore, there is no standard “recipe” for house dust, and in each case it will be some kind of special. Nevertheless, there is something in common in the dust of every house: we ourselves and our pets, if any, are responsible for the bulk of the dust.
Because the dusty base is made up of exfoliated skin cells, pet dander and dust mites that feed on it all.
In addition, dust in the home almost certainly includes debris from decomposed insects and food, as well as fibers from carpets, clothing and bedding.
Dust and intestines
Now we know very well that the gut affects literally everything in our body – from health to mood.
It would seem, what does the dust have to do with it. But house dust, being fomite (carrier of dangerous and not very microorganisms), can change the composition of bacteria in the intestines.
This conclusion was reached by Canadian scientists who studied the composition of fecal bacteria of 20 three-month-old babies and found a significant coincidence in the microbial community of a child and dust from his home.
It is assumed that dust and a person can “change” by bacteria in both directions. But this in this case is not very comforting, but rather the opposite.
Also, potentially toxic chemicals are always present in the dust. Moreover, there are much more of them (and the list is much more diverse) than one might assume.
In one study, American scientists analyzed 26 peer-reviewed papers and one unpublished dataset on a topic dating back to 1999.
So it was found that there were 45 toxic chemicals in house dust, ten of which were present in more than 90% of the samples.
Scientists note that the substances are present in the dust at such a level that we most likely inhale and accidentally eat small amounts of them every day.
Among the top 10 were, for example, flame retardants, including the carcinogenic flame retardant TDCIPP and the flame retardant TPHP, which can affect the reproductive and nervous systems.
By the way, in another study, which studied the content of brominated and phosphorus fire retardants in the dust of children’s bedrooms in Finland, it was found that in the premises it is dust that is the main factor in the effect of fire retardants on humans.
And also – phthalates, which in some studies have been associated with developmental problems in children and disruption of hormonal levels. The most common phthalate is DEHP, used in flexible plastics, cosmetics, and personal care products.
In mice and rats, experiments have shown that it interferes with the development of the male reproductive system and may be associated with liver cancer.
An important limitation of the study is that it only looked at the types and amounts of chemicals present in dust, but not their impact on the health of people who interact with this dust every day.
Not to mention, for many chemicals, even if they are classified as carcinogenic or toxic, it is not known exactly which quantities should be considered hazardous.
And without adding that the studies were carried out on laboratory animals, so it is impossible to transfer their results to people without a corresponding reservation.
Dust mites and why they are dangerous
Although the name sounds creepy, they are actually tiny insects belonging to the arachnid class that feed on dust and look like dust. They like warm (about 21 degrees) and humid (about 70%) environments and can cause quite a strong allergic reaction in humans.
This happens when we inhale the waste products of dust mites, and then the immune system starts to work at full capacity, producing antibodies.
Symptoms of a dust mite allergy include sneezing, runny nose, itchy and red eyes, itchy nose and throat, nasal congestion, and coughing.
If symptoms worsen at home, especially when cleaning or when you go to bed, it’s worth talking to an allergist. It is also useful to wash bedding in hot water at least once a week and dry it thoroughly to reduce the risks.
What the street dust hides
Nevertheless, most of the dust (almost 60%) that we collect with a wet cloth and vacuum cleaner at home is taken from the street.
She enters the apartment with clothes, shoes and pet fur, through open windows, doors and ventilation. It can be very different in size and composition and can also be toxic.
Scientists are particularly concerned about lead, which can accumulate in soil and dust from industrial emissions, vehicles that burn gasoline, and lead-based paints.
There is strong evidence that our bodies absorb more lead if we breathe it in. Inside the body, it accumulates in bones, blood and tissues, and can cause anemia, weakness, and disorders in the functioning of the kidneys and brain.
It is also known that lead can cross the placental barrier so that pregnant women exposed to lead also put their baby at risk.
Important note: all of this happens with regular exposure to lead or poisoning with it. But it is clear that, being present in the dust, this component also does nothing good for us.
What to do to reduce risks
One of the most effective ways to reduce your exposure to dust chemicals is to wash your hands frequently (which is important now for many reasons).
And so that they do not get into the body by inhalation, scientists recommend using a vacuum cleaner with a highly efficient HEPA filter for cleaning.
And don’t walk around the house with outdoor shoes: Studies show 96% of shoes have traces of faecal bacteria on the soles, including the antimicrobial-resistant Clostridioides difficile, which causes severe diarrhea and colon inflammation.
Every person over sixty-five years of age who gets C. diff infection dies within a month. Add to this carcinogens from asphalt and chemicals that have a bad effect on the endocrine system from the lawns, which also remain on the soles, and the need to take off your shoes right at the entrance will become even more obvious.
5 unexpected reasons to clean home more often
Cleaning to reduce health risks is motivation.
But if you need a little more, then cleaning has several unexpected advantages:
- Free breathing
According to the American Lung Association, pet dander can cause some pretty serious breathing problems, including allergies and asthma. Regular cleaning of the room in which you live will reduce the risks (associated, by the way, also with mold).
- Reduced stress levels
While cleaning may seem like a rather stressful endeavor, it really isn’t. A 2009 study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that women living in cluttered homes had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than women who lived in tidy, clean homes. Given that stress can kill the brain cells responsible for memory and learning, reducing it is very important.
- Proper nutrition
A strange correlation that still exists. There is evidence that people under stress and in less-than-clean homes consumed, on average, three times as many calories as those who were also stressed but still in a tidied home. Perhaps the story “to put things in order in life, start at your table” really works somehow.
- Deep dream
When the US National Sleep Foundation conducted a study looking at sleep habits, they found that there was a link between a clean bedroom and a good night’s rest. More than 75% of those surveyed said they sleep better on clean sheets. And also, by the way, the same dust mites, which, having settled on the bed, increase the symptoms of allergies right before bedtime, can influence this.
- Physical activity
Finally, while cleaning is certainly not an elliptical trainer, it can be a good way to stay active throughout the day. One study found that people with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease did better (and their health scores did better) if they had clean homes.