Steven Hentges, Ph.D
Saturday, July 1, 2017

Dust is commonly defined as the fine, dry particles of matter that are present anywhere matter is present. It’s pretty much everywhere, including the ubiquitous household dust that seems to magically appear in our homes on every surface and in the form of dust bunnies under furniture.

Household dust is made up of particles from every type of matter in our surroundings, including particles of us. From skin cells and hair, to fabric fibers, to pollen and soil particles, household dust has it all.

Although it may be just an annoyance to you, household dust is a topic of research for some scientists. One area of interest is figuring out what traces of environmental substances are found in household dust. Understanding which contaminants are present in dust and how they got there can provide important information about the contaminants in our environment and how they move around.

Household dust can also be a source of human exposure to environmental contaminants and, thus, a potential health risk, especially for infants and toddlers who tend to spend more time on the floor and are more likely to put everything in their mouths.

One of the environmental contaminants that has been measured in household dust is bisphenol A (BPA), a substance primarily used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Clear and highly shatter-resistant, polycarbonate is used in common consumer products such as bicycle helmets, sunglass lenses and CDs. Epoxy resins are tough, durable materials that excel as protective coatings used to prevent corrosion of metal products.

BPA was found in household dust samples from 15 countries in North America, South American, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, according to recent studies. What’s important to note is that the levels of BPA have consistently been reported to be very low, in the range of one part per million (ppm) or below.

Along with reporting the levels of BPA in household dust, many of the researchers also estimated the level of human exposure to BPA from dust. Even more importantly, the reports consistently show that household dust is a minor source of exposure to BPA and the amounts are far below safe intake levels set by government entities worldwide.

Even the highest estimated exposure to BPA from dust is approximately 5,000 times below the safe intake limit set by U.S. government bodies. For BPA in general, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) answers the question “Is BPA safe?” with the straightforward answer “Yes.”

With the very sensitive analytical methods available today it is possible to detect BPA in dust, although only at ultra-trace levels that are not a health concern. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to put off cleaning the house for another day.

A longer version of this story is available to read on Science 2.0. More blogs related to BPA are available at AmericanChemistry.com.