What does the dust in your home mean for your health?

Read the full post at The Conversation.

You vacuum it, sweep it and wipe it off your furniture. But do you know what it actually is – and how it may affect your health?

Don’t feel bad if you’re clueless about your dust. Scientists are not that far ahead of you in terms of understanding the sources and health risks of indoor air and particles.

That’s an issue, because people spend a lot of time indoors. Indeed, the average American stays within four walls for almost 90% of their day. So knowing more about how your indoor environment affects your health is vital.

To better quantify environmental influences on health, researchers have begun using an “exposome” approach, which considers every last environmental exposure an individual experiences over a lifetime. Your own exposome includes everything from secondhand smoke when you were a baby to lead exposure in your childhood to particulate matter if you grew up near a major roadway or industrial facility.

Dust is a big component of the exposome. What particles are you inhaling and ingesting as you go about your day?

I’m a geochemist, and my lab studies environmental health at the household level. Along with environmental scientist Mark Taylor at Macquarie University and other international partners, I’m conducting a research project on the indoor exposome.

Instead of dumping their vacuum canister into the trash, citizen-scientists put it into a sealable bag and send it off to our lab for analysis. This project, called 360 Dust Analysis, is one of a number of recent efforts that are starting to crack the code on indoor dust.

 

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