In the first-of-its-kind meta-analysis, published in Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers discovered that the number one chemical identified in household dust was DEHP, which belongs to a hazardous class of chemicals called phthalates that are used in everything from household cleaners to food packaging to cosmetics, fragrance, and personal-hygiene products.
Household dust was found to have phthalates in the highest concentration - with a mean of 7,682 nanograms per gram of dust - an amount that was several orders of magnitude above the other chemicals.
Phenols, chemicals used in cleaning products and other household items, were the second on the list of highest concentrations, followed by flame retardants and highly fluorinated chemicals that are used to make non-stick cookware.
"Our study is the first comprehensive analysis of consumer product chemicals found in household dust," says lead author Ami Zota, Sc.D., M.S., assistant professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Milken Institute School of Public Health. "The findings suggest that people, and especially children, are exposed on a daily basis to multiple chemicals in dust that are linked to serious health problems," she adds.
Potentially toxic chemicals from consumer products are released into air and amalgamate with dust that settles on household furniture and the floor. Families are then exposed to the toxic dust composite through inhaling or ingesting small particles, while some minor amounts can be absorbed through skin.