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July 07, 2005

Dust Up

For years now, scientists have known that US and Canadian residents have elevated levels of PBDEs -- a flame retardant known to impair development in lab animals -- in their bodies, compared with European and Asian counterparts. (See, for example, our own study of PBDEs in northwesterners.)

The problem is that nobody's been sure of how the compounds get into us. Some speculated that food was the main exposure route -- and pointed to studies that found the compounds in common foods taken from grocery store shelves. Others suspected that house dust was the real culprit -- and that people were inhaling dust containing traces of PBDEs that had been sloughed off from degrading furniture foams or other consumer items.

Now, one research team claims to have an answer to the food v. dust controversy. Their conclusion: most of the PBDEs in people's bodies comes from house dust.

As far as I can tell, this is based on a computer model; but the model is based on actual measurements of PBDEs both in foods and house dust.

Still, it's probably too soon to call this definitive. But to me, it certainly suggests that -- in addition to banning the compounds outright -- there ought to be more efforts directed at getting PBDE-laden products out of people's homes.

Posted by ClarkWD | Permalink


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Tracked on Aug 25, 2005 11:51:47 AM


One of our local (Seattle) indoor air quality experts, John Roberts (a.k.a. "Doctor Dust"), has been on to this for years. Here's a link to an article he contributed to the 1999 issue of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild's newsletter, EcoBuilding Times:

Protection from the Toxic Insult of Dust

His suggestions, in order of effectiveness and ease of implementation:
- Take off your shoes at the door.
- Vacuum regularly with a HEPA vacuum, ideally one equipped with an embedded dirt finder (HVDF).
- Remove wall-to-wall carpeting.

The American Lung Association (206 441-5100, www.alaw.org) has more information. A Master Home Environmentalist can come to your home, and bring along one of those vacuums.

American Lung Association Master Home Environmentalist Program

Posted by: Rob Harrison AIA | Jul 8, 2005 10:26:16 AM

a whole house vacuum which vents to the outside costs little more than a good HEPA vac, and is easier to maintain and use.

Posted by: da | Jul 27, 2005 11:10:40 AM