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Dust permeates our indoor environment.  It’s everywhere, some of it natural – dead skin, soil, pollen, dust mites.  Some of it unnatural - chemicals, pesticides, rubber, herbicides - all these and more comprise the dust inside our homes and places of work.

What many people don't know is that toxic chemicals are brought inside all the time, simply by wearing your shoes indoors, or from your pets coming in after romping around the yard.  We breathe this soup and, frankly, we’re allergic to much of it.  Worse yet, outdoor UV rays that would normally and naturally break down much of the toxins inside your home are non-existent there, so they tend to accumulate. And what better an accumulator than carpet, seemingly driven to collect that which is on the bottom of your - and Fido’s - feet!

Let’s consider the health implications of living amidst our ground up world and then suggest a pathway for you to resolve this dusty issue.        

Dust mites are the most potent source of allergens in house dust.  Dust mites are microscopic insects that live in pillows, mattresses, carpets and upholstered furniture.  Magnify a dust mite photograph and it’s like tuning into the sci-fi channel on your tube.  They thrive in warm, humid conditions, and eat shed skin scales from human skin.  Mmmmmmm…

It's the waste that they produce that people react to -- in other words, their poop.  Dust mites are so prevalent that about 20-30% of the weight of the pillow on your bed is typically made up of dust mites and the waste they make!  And that’s where we lay our heads for about a third of our life… sleeping; breathing.  Prolonged exposure to these allergens can cause, well, allergic reactions.  Go figure!  With twenty percent of the U.S. population suffering from active allergies and asthma, an estimated eight to twelve percent are known to be caused by the poop of these tiny critters.         

Dust mites aren't the only thing we have to be concerned with.  Pesticides are also found in house dust.  PCP is often found in the dust of houses where wood preservatives have been used to treat wood.  Lead, a chemical which causes learning disabilities in children, is found just outside the foundation of our older homes, as a result of sanding and scraping past layers of lead paint.  Road dust, wood and coal smoke, and other potential carcinogens also pose a threat in dust.  Having all of these substances in your home raises the risk of allergic reactions, sickness, and cancer. Not good.           

Because of their immature immune systems, children are especially susceptible to the dangers of their environment. The youngsters tend to ingest a lot of dust and other pollutants because they play on the floor.  They stomp, they jump, and they put things in their mouths.  It's exactly these things that cause them to form allergies and other sicknesses.  Many allergies are developed in toddlers from prolonged exposure to dust and the patterns continue to get worse over time.  Twenty-five years ago, one in twenty-five children in Washington State were diagnosed with asthma.  Now the number has risen to one in ten children, and one in fourteen adults.  With all these dangers that house dust pose to us, what can we do?

A lot.

And, quite simply, removing one’s shoes at the door is the most powerful thing you can do. An effective ‘shoes off’ policy can decrease dust loading in your home by as much as 95% -- as well as reduce the amount of house cleaning you’ll need to do!

This is but one of many ways to address the implications of dust on indoor air quality. Want to learn more? Here’s a link to my radio program on dust recorded for KMRE 102.3 FM called ‘On The Level’. My two guests, local allergist David Elkayam, and building performance specialist John Davies, will help you understand what you can do, and why you should do it, in order to achieve healthy indoor air qualit            

Click on this link to access my show…




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