Toxic Fire Retardants In Your Household Dust

Bad news for sporadic dust-busters: our dust bunnies may be killing us softly. It’s not what they say about our abysmal standards for household cleanliness, it’s what they’re doing to our health. Household dust has long been a known culprit when it comes to allergies and asthma, but a new study from the Silent Spring Institute found 66 endocrine-disrupting compounds in dust samples they tested. Remember endocrine disruptors, those nasty little toxins that act like estrogen in the body, have been linked to various cancers, and can cause “incomplete masculinization” in baby boys?

One of the primary sources of all this toxic junk we’re inhaling every day is flame retardants, or PBDE’s – compounds found in clothing, on electronic devices, and sprayed on more potentially flammable household product than you can shake a fire hose at.

From the Environmental Working Group:

"In the case of fire retardants, which are commonly found in household dust, scientists have found that exposure to minute doses of toxic PBDEs at critical points in a child's development can damage reproductive systems and cause deficits in motor skills, learning, memory and hearing, as well as changes in behavior."

Sounds like a vicious cycle to me:

  • I ‘forget’ to dust my apartment.
  • I inhale the dust that’s collected (PBDE’s along with it).
  • Those PBDE’s diminish my motor skills, memory and hearing, so that I am now physically less capable of dusting, even less likely than before to remember that I should dust, and less able to hear my roommates’ grumbles when the dust bunnies in our living room become cantaloupe-sized.
  • Visit the Environmental Working Group’s site for happy healthy dusting recommendations

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