Remember this the next time you forget to dust: All those dust bunnies could be exposing you to potentially hazardous chemicals. Numerous studies have found that chemicals from pesticides to phthalates (allergenic components of synthetic fragrances) build up in household dust, and a new study just published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives finds that chemicals designed to prevent furniture from going up in flames are in your dust as well—and those chemicals could prove toxic.
THE DETAILS: The study, which took place at a Belgian University, looked at blood levels of hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDs), a flame retardant common in Europe, in 16 university students. For the first part of the study, students were asked to keep track of all the food they ate; flame retardants build up in the fatty tissue of animals, leading some researchers to suspect that food is a major source of flame-retardant exposure. Duplicate samples of those foods were tested for HBCD levels. For the second part of the study, the scientists gathered samples of dust from the students' rooms that were later tested for levels of one type of HBCDs (the second type of the chemical occurs largely in food). During each phase, they compared HBCDs in the students' blood with levels found in the dust and the food. All blood samples had high levels of HBCD, and while there were very low levels found in food, the dust samples had significantly higher levels.