Could the Dust in Your House Make Your Kids Fat?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that children consume something between 60 and 100 milligrams of dust every single day.  And this is important because a new study out of Duke University suggests that chemicals found in household dust can trigger fat cell development and facilitate fat cell multiplication. 

Lead study author Christopher Kassotis explains, “We found that two-thirds of dust extracts were able to promote fat cell development, and half promote precursor fat cell proliferation at 100 micrograms, or approximately 1,000-times-lower levels than what children consume on a daily basis.”

The experiment also had researchers look at more than 100 different chemicals found in typical household dust to see if they are related to fat cell development.  In this part of the experiment, they found nearly six dozen of these chemicals have a “significant positive relationship with the development of dust-induced fat cells.”  Additional, 40 of those chemicals—so more than half—were associated with a “precursor to fat cell development.”

Indeed, the research team was able to prove that several of these chemicals were, in fact, found at significantly elevated levels in the dust which came from the homes of overweight or obese children.  These chemicals include flame retardants, plasticizers, phthalates, and stain repellants. 

Kassotis goes on to say, then, “This suggests that mixtures of chemicals occurring in the indoor environment might be driving these effects,” noting that this is really only some of the first research to investigate the potential connection between exposure to chemical mixtures found within our indoor environments and the metabolic health of children who live in those homes. 

He concludes by advising that frequent dusting is an effective—and easy—way to reduce exposure, especially if you are concerned about this data.  However, he also warns, “We suspect that dry dusting may just actually kick these chemicals back up in the air and make it easier to inhale them.  So, it really should be a wet dusting to avoid increasing your exposure to these chemicals.”

Because the data is so new, researchers will continue to study household chemicals in order to determine if any of these might have a link with obesity. 

The results of this study are being presented at the Endocrine Society’s conference, in New Orleans.