Global Study Detects Harmful Chemicals in Bedroom Dust that can Harm Human Health

As you spruce up your home, particularly your bedroom, in preparation for the New Year, have you ever asked what is on your household dust?

A global study has determined the presence of environmental toxicants in dust samples that can enter and harm the human body, the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog reported.

“Home Sweet Home: Dusty Surprises Under the Bed,” a report prepared by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) and 11 partner organizations, including the EcoWaste Coalition, provided a snapshot on the assortment of chemicals that humans can be exposed to through household dust.

The bedroom dust samples were obtained from six European, four African and two Asian countries, including the Philippines – from a home in Malabon City – and subsequently tested in reputable laboratories in Germany and Sweden.

Among the toxicants found in bedroom dust from 12 countries were alkylphenols, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, perflourinated chemicals, phthalates and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury.

“Not even when we are sleeping, are we safe from environmental toxicants. Indoor dust globally contains hazardous chemicals, which can endanger our health. Children are extra sensitive and more exposed to toxicants in dust, especially to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Rendering everyday life free from toxicants must accelerate,”said Mikael Karlsson, Chairman of SSNC, Sweden’s biggest and oldest environmental organization.

Polluted dust can be inhaled, ingested as it is deposited on foods, and when children put dusty objects in their mouths, or be deposited on the skin, through which fat-soluble chemicals from the dust may be absorbed, the report said.

For her part Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect said: “The results underscore the need for stronger chemicals regulations to ensure that hazardous chemicals in common products are phased out and substituted with alternatives to reduce health risks, especially when these chemicals interact producing toxic cocktail effect.”

“Cocktail effect” refers to the “combination effect” of chemicals in a mixture that contribute to the properties of the mixture, including its toxicity, where it is known that the total toxicity of a mixture can surpass the toxicity of its most toxic component.

Information from the “Chemical Body Burden” website says that “no one is ever exposed to a single chemical, but to a chemical soup, the ingredients of which may interact to cause unpredictable health effects.”

The dust sample from the Philippines, which does not claim to be a representative sample for the entire country, ranked highest among the 12-country dust samples in terms of BPA, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) flame retardants and phthalates (particularly, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP, a suspected human carcinogen).

For BPA, the daily exposure level for the dust sample from the Philippines corresponds to the concentrations that have been found to create effects in animal experiments.

For PBDE flame retardants, the cumulative concentration of the Philippine sample was found to be over 10,000 times greater than the Malaysian sample, which has the lowest cumulative concentration.

For phthalates, the greatest deviations from other studies were from developing countries, particularly the Philippines.


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Additional information culled from the “Home Sweet Home” report:

1. BPA: “Accumulate in organisms due to chronic exposure and disrupt the body’s endocrine system. Impairments of fertility and cancer are effects that have been seen in animal studies.”

2. PBDE flame retardants: “Very persistent in nature. Accumulate in organisms, and many of them are capable, or are suspected of being capable, of disrupting the body’s endocrine system, and consequently, among other things, affecting fertility and causing cancer.”

3. Phthalates: “Break down easily in nature, but at least some of them can disrupt the body’s endocrine system and consequently affect fertility. Some are classified as toxic to reproduction, and are suspected of being carcinogenic.”