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Reducing Household Dust

Dust is a complex mixture of dead skin, soil tracked in from outdoors, fungal spores and chemicals from household products—some of which may be harmful.

Healthiest Dusting Tips

  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter

  • Wet mop or dust surfaces frequently

  • Avoid chemical flame retardants

  • Use high-quality air filters

Do’s & Don’ts

Dirty Details

What we call dust is a complex mixture of pet dander, fungal spores, tiny particles, soil tracked in on your feet, carpet fibers, human hair and skin. Dust itself is an allergen and it can contain harmful chemicals.

Harmful chemicals in dust come from both inside and outside your house. Indoor items like furniture, electronics, shoes, plastics and fabrics can shed chemicals, while outdoor pollutants can enter on your shoes, and through windows and doors.

As highly flammable synthetic materials have replaced less-combustible natural materials, harmful chemical flame retardants have been added to thousands of everyday products, including furniture, computers and TVs. These chemicals escape from consumer products and settle in household dust. Older homes built before 1978 may also contain lead paint, which could be a source of lead in dust.

Young children are especially at risk from dust, because their developing bodies are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals, and they ingest or inhale more dust than adults as they spend more time on the floor. They also often put their hands and toys in their mouths.


  1. Environmental Working Group, In the Dust: Toxic Fire Retardants in American Homes. 2004. Available at
  2. Pat Costner, Sick of Dust: Chemicals in Common Products—A Needless Health Risk in Our Homes. Clean Production Action, 2005. Available at
  3. Mayo Clinic, Dust Mite Allergy. Available at
  4. R.E. Dodson, Fact Sheet: House Dust Contains Carcinogens and Untested Chemicals Used as Flame Retardants in Consumer Products. Silent Spring Institute, 2012. Available at

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