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Main Ingredients in Household Dust Come From Outdoors

Arsenic and other particles tracked indoors can be harmful, researchers warn

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Most of the dust that coats your furniture and floors comes from outdoors and can pose a health threat, a new study suggests.

The researchers developed a computer model that can track the distribution of outdoor soil and airborne particles into homes and found that more than 60 percent of household dust originates from tracked-in soil and airborne particles from the outdoors. The remainder is from dead skin shed by residents, fibers from carpets and upholstered furniture.

This outdoor-based dust can contain lead, arsenic and other potentially harmful substances, said the Arizona researchers. For example, they estimated that 60 percent of arsenic in floor dust may come from arsenic in the surrounding air, with the remainder coming from tracked-in soil.

The substances in household dust that originates outdoors may be a special concern for homes with children, who put dust-contaminated toys and other objects into their mouths, said David Layton and Paloma Beamer of the University of Arizona in Tucson, who added that their computer model may prove useful in evaluating ways to reduce contaminants in dust and associated human exposure.

The study was released online in advance of publication in the Nov. 1 print issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a guide to indoor air quality.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Environmental Science & Technology, news release, November 2009

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