How to Reduce Exposure to Toxic Dust Inside Your House
Sure, dust in your house is annoying. But did you know it could be toxic?
The chemicals in your dust originate from inside and outside your house. Products inside your house—such as furniture, electronics, shoes, plastics, fabrics and food—shed chemicals over time. Outdoor pollutants enter on shoes and through open and cracked windows and doors
Once inside, the contaminants in indoor dust degrade more slowly—if at all—than they would outside where moisture and sunlight typically break them down.
One type of toxic chemical commonly found in household dust is chemical flame retardants, also known as PBDEs. As highly flammable synthetic materials have replaced less-combustible natural materials, PBDEs have been added to thousands of everyday products, including computers, TVs and furniture, among many others. Environmental Working Group conducted tests that revealed the surprising degree to which flame-retardant chemicals escape from consumer products and settle in household dust.
Now, a new study shows that vinyl flooring could be joining the list of household products contributing to chemical-laced household dust. Large areas of vinyl flooring in daycares and schools appear to expose children to a group of compounds called phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive and developmental problems, according to a study published recently in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Phthalates, which increase the flexibility and durability of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), are key ingredients in PVC materials used in vinyl flooring and a wide range of other household products, including toys, food packaging and medical devices.
Like other chemicals found indoors, these additives leach out of products into the air and dust. This study is among the first to show what products were contributing to indoor phthalate levels.
Silent Spring Institute has some advice on how you can reduce your exposure:
- Go natural. Select carpets, carpet pads, bedding, cushions and upholstered furniture made from naturally flame-resistant materials such as wool, polyester and hemp.
- Repair ripped furniture. Flame retardants are added to polyurethane foam filling.
- Keep down dust. Vacuum regularly with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter. Wipe surfaces with a wet cloth or mop.
- Wash hands frequently. Hand washing does more than prevent the spread of germs; it also reduces the amount of flame retardants entering our bodies. Remember to use regular soap and water instead of antibacterial soaps, which may contain endocrine disrupting chemicals.
- Look for snug-fitting cotton sleepwear labeled as not flame-resistant. Sleepwear for children nine months and older is subject to flammability tests.
- Get involved. At the national level, Congress is considering the Safe Chemicals Act to make sure chemicals are tested for safety before going into use.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
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