Chemical
Reduce exposure to flame retardants by dusting frequently.

Reduce exposure to flame retardants by dusting frequently.

February 26, 2013

Whether you’re a neatnik or not, now you have a health justification for dust-busting – common house dust is loaded with chemicals that have been linked to a variety of health and development issues. Researchers have known for years that dust is often contaminated with lead and certain pesticides. Now there is another concern – flame retardants used in carpets, couches, cars, computers, cell phones, televisions, mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpet padding, and more. There are hundreds of different types and even with an increasing amount of bans and restrictions, the persistent nature of most of these chemicals means they’ll be with us for years. And, they don’t stay put. When your kids jump on the bed, they’re releasing particles. When the computer or TV gets hot, more of the little intruders escape. This is how flame retardants end up in house dust and in your kid’s lungs.

Researchers aren’t clear on how these flame retardant chemicals volatilize or why exactly they clings to dust, nor are they certain how the dust ends up in us. Preliminary assumptions are that we unwittingly eat the dust through hand-to-mouth behavior. This would explain in part why younger children have higher levels than adults – because of theire natural hand-to-mouth behavior.

These molecular migrants, linked to things like neurodevelopmental impacts, hormone disruption, and cancer, will persist in kid’s bodies through adulthood.

Here are easy steps you can take today:

1. Wash hands regularly. So you don’t dry out skin, save soap for the post-bathroom and pre-eating washings. Simply rinse with water on a more occasional basis (especially with babies and toddlers that are in mouthing and chewing phases).

2. Capture the dust. Frequently wipe surfaces with a damp cloth. Wipe hard floors with a damp mop. (You only need to use water for these tasks – save cleansers for deeper cleaning). And vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly. Some experts call for twice weekly eradication of dust, but don’t get neurotic.

3. Swipe your screens. Some of the most contaminated dust is that found on TV and computer screens. Wipe them regularly and dispose of old electronics responsibly. (Visit earth911.org to learn how.)

4. Buy non-toxic products for you and your kids. The flame retardant chemicals in dust come from the chemicals in the products we bring into our homes. Don’t ditch everything you have right now, but replace things responsibly.