Household dust is a mix of dead skin and hair, soil, plus bits of fibres and chemicals breaking down from your possessions. Dust can enter your body through your mouth or nose.
Some common chemicals found in dust include:
chemicals added to products to prevent or suppress fires. Flame retardants are commonly found in electronics, in textiles like as curtains and blankets, and in foams used in furniture, insulation, and children’s toys. These chemicals can affect many body systems and have been associated with endocrine, immune system, brain, and reproductive disorders, including some types of cancer. Flame retardants are a common component of household dust.
metal used in a variety of products. Prior to the 1970s, lead was added to paint to make it durable. If you are renovating and area with lead-based paint, you risk creating lead dust. Modern products produced in Canada, including toys and surface coatings can contain up to 90 mg/kg of lead. Products produced in other countries may contain much more. Although some products on store shelves in Canada get tested for lead and can be recalled if high levels are found, foreign products purchased online may never be checked.
Lead is extremely persistent in the environment and accumulates in the human body. Exposures throughout your lifetime build up and can cause anemia, kidney and brain and central nervous system damage. Lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and infertility (in both men and women). Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to intellectual and behaviour effects of lead exposure. Fetuses in utero are exposed to lead in the mother’s blood, which have accumulated throughout her lifetime.
What You Can Do
- Wash your hands often, especially before eating
- Dust using a damp cloth and vacuum regularly using HEPA filter
- When buying new furniture, do your research to determine if it contains flame retardants
- When renovating, wear safety glasses and a dust mask to protect yourself from lead dust or purchase a lead paint test kit from a hardware store
- Buy products from trusted retailers, and stay up to date with recalls and safety alerts issued by Health Canada (online, email, or smartphone app)
We provide science-based information gathered from trustworthy sources. For further reading, you can check out our sources, which include:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, Pregnant Women
- Government of Canada: Consumer Products Containing Lead Regulations (SOR/2018-83)
- Government of Canada: Lead Information Package – Some Commonly Asked Questions About Lead and Human Health
- Government of Canada: Lead and Cadmium in Children’s Jewlery
- Government of Canada: Flame Retardants
- Government of Canada: Recalls and Safety Alerts
- National Institute of Environmental Health: Flame Retardants
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Consumer Fact Sheet on Flame Retardants