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A common definition of the word dust refers to fine, dry particles of matter. From dust storms on earth to cosmic dust, just about everywhere that any form of matter is present, dust will also be present. That includes the ubiquitous household dust that seems to magically appear in our homes on every surface and in the form of dust bunnies under furniture.
Household dust consists of particles of most every form of matter that is present in our personal environment, including particles of us. From skin cells and hair, to fabric fibers, to pollen and soil particles, household dust has it all.
Although it may be just an annoyance to you, household dust is a topic of research for some scientists. Of particular scientific interest is the presence of trace levels of environmental contaminants that are found in household dust. Understanding which contaminants are present in dust and how they got there can provide important information about the contaminants in our environment and how they move around.
Household dust can also be a source of human exposure to environmental contaminants and, thus, a potential health risk. This is especially so for infants and toddlers who spend a lot of time on the floor and are prone to put everything in their mouths.
One of the environmental contaminants that has been measured in household dust is bisphenol A (BPA), which is primarily used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Clear and highly shatter-resistant, polycarbonate is used in common consumer products such as bicycle helmets, sunglass lenses and CDs. Epoxy resins are tough, durable materials that excel as protective coatings used to prevent corrosion of metal products.
Recent studies have reported BPA in household dust samples from 15 countries in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Importantly though, the levels of BPA have consistently been reported to be very low, in the range of one part per million (ppm) or below.
Along with reporting the levels of BPA in household dust, many of the researchers also estimated the level of human exposure to BPA from dust. Even more importantly, these researchers also consistently report that household dust is a minor source of exposure to BPA and the levels of exposure from dust are far below safe intake limits for BPA set by government bodies worldwide.
Even the highest estimated exposure to BPA from dust is approximately 5,000 times below the safe intake limit set by U.S. government bodies. For BPA in general, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) answers the question “Is BPA safe?” with the straightforward answer “Yes.”
With the very sensitive analytical methods available today it is possible to detect BPA in dust, although only at ultra-trace levels that are not a health concern. Nevertheless, this should not be considered as an excuse to put off housecleaning for another day.
If you’re interested in this story, a longer version of this article is available on Science 2.0. More blogs related to BPA are available at AmericanChemistry.com.
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