Dust contains toxic chemicals linked to fertility problems and cancer
Dusting an mopping is not most people's idea of fun but could be vital to our health, a new study has found.
Failing to do the housework properly can expose people to cancer-causing chemicals which were found to be widespread in dust.
Harmful phthalates - typically found in everyday items such as food packaging, hair spray, cosmetics and soaps - have been linked to health problems ranging from asthma and ADHD to early menopause.
Chemicals from these products are released into the air and get into dust, which can settle on household items or on the floor, researchers found.
Scientists from George Washington University found dozens of the toxic chemicals had made their way into dust.
In the first study of its kind researchers gathered dust samples collected throughout the US to identify the toxic chemicals they contain.
Overall, the phthalate DEHP was the highest level of chemical in dust followed by phenols, which also used in plastics, and flame retardant chemicals.
This can be harmful as people can breathe in small particles of dust or absorb them through the skin.
Infants and young children are particularly at risk because they crawl, play on dusty floors and put their hands in their mouths, scientists warned.
Lead researcher, professor Ami Zota, said: '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.'
Professor Zota and colleagues pooled data from 26 previous studies and one unpublished dataset that analysed dust samples taken from homes in 14 states.
They found 45 potentially toxic chemicals that are used in many consumer and household products such as vinyl flooring, personal care and cleaning products, building materials and home furnishings.
The team found ten harmful chemicals are found in 90 percent of the dust samples, including a known cancer-causing agent called TDCIPP.
This flame retardant is frequently found in furniture, baby products and other household items.
Indoor dust was found to consistently contain four classes of harmful chemicals in high amounts.
But scientists warned the study probably underestimates the true exposure to the chemicals, which can be found widely in packaging and even in fast food.
They advised the best way to avoid the chemicals from exposure to dust was to keep dust levels low.
They recommend using a strong vacuum, washing hands frequently and avoiding personal care and household products that contain potentially dangerous chemicals.
Dr Robin Dodson, an environmental exposure scientist at Silent Spring Institute, Massachusetts, said: 'Consumers have the power to make healthier choices and protect themselves from harmful chemicals in everyday products.
'These things can make a real difference not only in their health but also in shifting the market toward safer products.'
Co-author Dr Veena Singla, of the US Natural Resources Defence Council, said: 'The number and levels of toxic and untested chemicals that are likely in every one of our living rooms was shocking to me.
'Harmful chemicals used in everyday products and building materials result in widespread contamination of our homes. These dangerous chemicals should be replaced with safer alternatives.'