Chemicals in household dust may lead to ‘increased growth’ in children

25 Mar 2019

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A somewhat worrying study has claimed that a number of chemicals found in household dust may promote the growth of fat cells, especially in children.

New research presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in the US has warned about the potential side effects of the many chemicals we are spraying in our households, such as cleaning products, and the consequences for the human body.

The findings made by researchers from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in North Carolina claim that endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in simple household dust may promote the development of fat cells, contributing to increased growth in children, relative to their age.

Future Human

“This is some of the first research investigating links between exposure to chemical mixtures present in the indoor environment and metabolic health of children living in those homes,” said lead researcher Christopher Kassotis.

Previous research into this area showed that prolonged chemical exposure can promote accumulation of triglycerides – a type of fat found in the blood – and increased obesity in animal models. Similarly, a number of observational studies have found a link between endocrine-disrupting chemicals believed to contribute to obesity and increased weight in humans.

Two-thirds of dust

In this most recent study, the research team looked at the effects of chemical mixtures isolated from household dust, collecting a total of 194 different samples from households in its home state of North Carolina. After extracting the chemicals from the dust in the lab, these compounds were tested for their ability to promote fat cell development in a cell model.

The research found that even very low concentrations of dust extracts were enough to promote precursor fat cell proliferation and fat cell development, which is worrying given that it is estimated children consume up to 100mg of household dust each day.

Kassotis said: “We found that two-thirds of dust extracts were able to promote fat cell development, and half promote precursor fat cell proliferation at 100 micrograms, or approximately 1,000-times-lower levels than what children consume on a daily basis.”

With these findings, the team then measured 100 different chemicals in the dust and looked at the relationship between their concentrations and the extent of fat cell development. It found that around 70 of the chemicals had a significant positive relationship with dust-induced fat cells, while 40 were linked with precursor fat cell development.

Several chemicals – some of which are found in common household products such as laundry detergents, household cleaners, paints and cosmetics – will be further investigated to determine which ones may be linked to obesity.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic