Toxic substances in dust
Dust toxins:Some commonly-used manufactured products are highly toxic, and although in recent years great efforts have been made to understand their effects and reduce the amount of these substances in our environment, many toxins are still sometimes found in our homes and offices - and can often create dust particles. Here are just a few examples of the many toxic substances that could possibly be found in dust.
Lead has long been known to be highly toxic. Great efforts have been made to phase out the general use of
lead from several home construction applications where it was onve commonplace. Much of the old lead has
now been removed from homes - but some old plumbing pipes and old paintwork may still contain lead. When
old lead-based paint is sanded, burned, or rubbed, dust is produced. Also, dust is produced when paint
deteriorates and cracks. Much of the paint used on homes prior to 1960 contains lead, and some paint
up to 1978 contains lead. Additional sources of lead might be traffic fumes, or soldering (many commercially
available solders contain lead alloys). Although lead has been phased out of use as a gasoline additive, soil
near to major roadways may contain lead and dust accumulated from years of traffic fumes - and this can be
picked up and enter the home.
Source / further info: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/lead.html
Although many asbestos products have now been banned, it can still be found in some homes e.g. in
old furnace insulation or textured paint. Most problems occur when these materials are disturbed /
improperly removed - as asbestos dust can be released - and the best thing to do is to have asbestos
removed by a qualified professional.
Source / further info: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asbestos.html
Another example of chemicals which have been found in dust is polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs have been commonly used in fire retardants and may be found in electrical goods, carpets and furniture. PBDEs are chemically similar to the notorious PCBs (which have been banned for their negative health effects) although the effects of PBDEs are not as well understood yet. Several types of PBDE have been banned in Europe and some have been banned in California as of January 1st, 2006. (see www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/pbt/pbde/docs/oct25/PBDE_Legislation.pdf)
It is interesting to note that IKEA phased out PBDE's in 2002, and that many other companies have either limited or discontinued their use - such as Apple, Motorola, Sony and Toshiba.
In summary, although it is often unclear how much of these toxic substances may be required to constitute a health hazard, and although of course opinions may vary, it could be said that avoiding breathing the stuff if possible, and breathing pure air, is probably a good idea!