It is widely known, that excessive calorie consumption, without adequate exercise can lead to weight gain. However, recent studies have identified a new cause for weight gain: house dust.
Can house dust actually make you fat? Recent research studies have identified certain house dust that contain obesogens. Obesogens are compounds that can alter metabolic processes and predispose people to weight gain. According to this research, children are reportedly more susceptible, as a they are estimated to consume 50 milligrams of house dust every day.
Today, human beings are being more and more exposed to chemicals. In the Second World War, around 80,000 commercial chemicals have been released into the environment. Moreover, 1500 more, are introduced annually.1 Plastic production has risen from 50 million tons 50 years ago, to 300 million tons today. Alongside this, we have also seen a rise in hormone-related disorders. Hormone disruptors can be discovered inside our fat, blood and urine. Moreover, research has noted a link between the release of chemicals into the environment and the increase of endocrine diseases in humans and animals.2
House Dust Causing Weight Gain
A study noted that normal house dust is capable of carrying hormone-disruptors, that cause cells to accumulate fat. Even minute amounts of house dust are enough to cause this effect when inhaled, ingested and even absorbed through our skin. According, to this study, these dust particles contained endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), that interfere with or mimick our hormones.
Researchers add that children have a higher risk of disruption to metabolic health, as EDCs are most harmful during stages of development, such as childhood, puberty and during pregnancy, when hormones play a vital role in human growth. While manufacturers are actively reducing the inclusion of EDCs in products, they are still found in a lot of consumer products.
This study, similar to previous studies, identified various chemicals, which can be commonly found in numerous household items. Phthalates can be found in air fresheners, detergents, vinyl flooring, wallpaper, personal care products, and so on. Flame retardants can be found in furniture and electronics. Toxic effects from bisphenol (BPA) can be found in plastics, receipts and canned food. These mentioned chemicals can easily become part of dust that settles throughout the household.3
How to Avoid Chemical Exposure
As scary this all seems, there are practical things we can do to mitigate the effects of obesogens and EDCs in general:
1. Cleaning Products
A lot of cleaning products emit fumes that you should not breathe in. These can burn or irritate your eyes and skin. Most are poisonous if swallowed. To protect yourself and your household,
· Don’t mix two or more cleaning products;
· Follow instructions for each product; and
· Keep cleaning products in a secure place that children cannot gain access to;
· Keep cleaning products in the original containers;
· Make sure the room you’re cleaning is well ventilated by using a fan and/or opening the windows;
· Mark hazardous cleaners and inform your household.
· Invest in a high-quality HEPA air filter that doesn’t use ozone.
· Vacuum regularly. Choose a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
· Ditch vinyl and synthetic scents.
– Opt for organic essential oils or choose scent-free products. Please remember that scented candles also have harmful chemicals.
To minimize exposure to harmful chemicals, use natural cleaning products such as:
· Baking soda mixed with water – an all-purpose cleaner
· Lemon juice – use as a glass cleaner, deodorizer and stain remover
· Olive oil – great as a furniture polish
· Vinegar – this can remove mildew and grease
2. Garden and Yard Work
Pesticides can pollute soil, which in return, can affect the food you grow and/or eat. This polluted soil can scatter via dust particles. Rain can cause these particles to settle onto the soil again.
If you know your area has contaminated soil, you can still start your own garden by making a raised bed garden. This is good way to avoid chemical exposure to you and your household. By building boxes over the ground, you separate your garden soil from the contaminated one. Get soil that you know to be free from contaminants.
Gardening also involves using fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Here are ways to protect yourself from these chemicals:
· Get your soil tested for contamination.
· Compute the precise amount of fertilizer. Don’t apply it before or after heavy rainfall.
· Water your soil before gardening. A damp garden means you won’t be inhaling dust particles.
· Remove your shoes before entering your home. Leave the soil outside the house.
· After gardening, wash your hands with soap and water.
· Wash fruits, vegetables, and herbs before eating.
The best advice I can give for gardening is go organic. There are natural pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that won’t have harmful effects on your body. You can buy them or make your own.
● The research study from Duke University found exposure to endocrine disruptive chemicals, also found in dust, can cause cells to store more fat.
● This specific type of hormone-disrupting chemicals is called obesogen. Exposure to EDCs, during vital stages: especially childhood, puberty and pregnancy, can negatively affect the endocrine system. Exposure can remain unnoticed until after many years, especially when exposed during childhood.
● Since World War II, about 80,000 commercial chemicals have been released to the environment. Around 1,500 more are added each year.
● Humans made 50 million tons of plastics in the 1970s. Today we are at 300 million tons. It can be said that, hormone related diseases are closely related to chemical exposures.
● Current laws in the US regarding chemicals do not adequately protect people from EDCs. We need to demand stricter laws on chemicals. If the current laws cannot protect citizens from exposure, they must be improved.
● Apart from being bad for our health, lax chemical laws are also bad for the economy. Even low-level but prolonged exposure to EDCs costs the United States a whopping $340 billion in health care spending and lost wages each year.4
● Stricter regulation is required in order to protect ourselves from chemical exposure inside and outside our homes. The problem is so pervasive it has become part of the environment, from the water we drink, the air we breathe and the very ground we stand on.
● Until a day comes when we can help ourselves by raising awareness, eating organic and unprocessed foods and shifting to a plant based diet. We can also avoid plastics as much as possible and go for furniture that do not use harmful chemicals.