Toxic Chemicals in Indoor Dust

Often, when we talk to customers about toxins in children’s products, they feel less concerned when it’s a product that their child is unlikely to put in their mouth. Even the most recent law governing children’s toys (the CPSIA) only outlaws certain phthalates (a class of hormone disrupting chemicals) in toys likely to be sucked on. However, a new study proves that many of the chemicals we worry about are being released from the products and landing in the dust in our homes. Our children, busy playing on the floor, are the most affected.

Researchers examined 26 peer-reviewed studies in 14 states and found 45 chemicals in the dust. Most concerning, they found 10 chemicals that they considered to be potentially harmful in 90% of all samples! See the NRDC’s chart of 10 concerning chemicals, their health hazards, and where they are commonly found.

Researchers found that most of the dust samples they analyzed included the same chemicals from household objects including flame retardants from furniture, HFCs from non-stick cookware, BPA and parabens from plastics and cleaning products, and most of all—phthalates from the plastics in everything from food packaging to toys.

The researchers evaluated the chemicals from three angles: quantity in the dust, how much of them gets into our bodies, and the health hazards of the chemicals. Flame retardant chemicals and phthalates stood out as the worst in all three categories.

To understand the scale of the levels of toxins found in dust, the NRDC looked at levels the Environmental Protection Agency publishes as unsafe when found in contaminated soil. In the case of a number of phthalate and flame retardants, the level in some dust samples exceeded EPA screening levels. In addition, the AVERAGE level of the phthalate DEHP (found in 100% of household dust samples) EXCEEDED levels the EPA calls concerning.

Though it is hard to pin specific health effects on any particular chemical, there is evidence that all of these may be of concern. Researchers also believe that exposures to chemicals can be additive over time. This study shows that our exposures are coming not just directly from contact with the chemicals, but also from the lingering effects of these chemicals entering our homes.

What can you do?

~ Make sure to clean the dusty parts of your home frequently, using cleaning products that do not add chemicals to your home.
~ Wash your children’s hands whenever they have been on the floor.
~ Keep products with phthalates and flame retardants out of your home. That includes not only toys and furniture, but also feeding supplies, personal care products, and clothing—flame retardants can be found in pajamas.
~ Be assured that anything you buy from Sprout is free from all toxic chemicals.

Watch to learn about what the National Resources Defense Council found when they tested household dust: