Fear in a Handful of Dust
Household Dust Carries Toxic Chemicals
According to a pair of new studies, common household dust carries “unexpectedly high” levels of PBDEs — chemicals used as fire retardants in computers, appliances, and household furnishings, which researchers suspect may cause cancer and stunt fetal brain development. “Exposure to brominated fire retardants is unavoidable,” concluded a study by the Environmental Working Group. “[We] found them in the dust of every home and in the body of every participant tested.” Though industry groups say the levels found through normal exposure are harmless, tests have found that the chemicals can interfere with brain development and thyroid function in laboratory animals. Of particular concern is the fact that children face higher exposure to PBDEs, through breast milk and through dust they ingest while crawling on the floor and putting their hands in their mouths. European countries have banned two of the three common PBDEs, and U.S. manufacturers have pledged to phase those two out by the end of the year.