New study finds toxic chemicals in household dust

Samples of household dust from 70 residences in seven U.S. states were found to contain a toxic cocktail of industrial chemicals — all of which have been shown to harm animals, all of which are legal and commonly used. The study, conducted by consumer-advocate group Clean Production Action, tested the dust for 44 chemicals and found 35 of them. The most common, and most controversial, are phthalates: plasticizers used to soften the vinyl in carpet, furniture fabric, shower curtains, and plenty else. Phthalates mess with the reproductive systems of animals, but have not been tested extensively for human health effects — mainly because lax U.S. regulations don’t require such testing. Industry groups hastened to say that just because these chemicals are everywhere doesn’t mean they’re harming the, uh, guinea pigs using them. But, asks CPA director Beverley Thorpe, “why should we take chances on chemicals we know are inherently hazardous when safe chemicals exist, and progressive companies are putting in place safe chemical policies?”