Household Dust Can Include Lead and Arsenic, Study Says

David W. Layton and Paloma I. Beamer, scientists at the University of Arizona, are reporting that most of the dust found indoors comes from outdoors.

Their report appears in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal. Click here to access the article, "Migration of Contaminated Soil and Airborne Particulates to Indoor Dust."

In the study, the scientists point out that household dust consists of a potpourri that includes dead skin shed by people, fibers from carpets and upholstered furniture, and tracked-in soil and airborne particles blown in from outdoors. It can include lead, arsenic and other potentially harmful substances that migrate indoors from outside air and soil. That can be a special concern for children, who consume those substances by putting dust-contaminated toys and other objects into their mouths.

The scientists describe development and use on homes in the Midwest of a computer model that can track distribution of contaminated soil and airborne particulates into residences from outdoors. They found that more than 60 percent of house dust originates outdoors. They estimated that nearly 60 percent of the arsenic in floor dust could come from arsenic in the surrounding air, with the remainder derived from tracked-in soil. The researchers point out the model could be used to evaluate methods for reducing contaminants in dust and associated human exposures.

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