Spring Cleaning Part 2 of 5 – Toxic Dust
For most folks, dust is just annoying. It clogs our computers, collects under furniture, gets in our eyes, and gives us sneezing fits. But more and more, dust is getting to be a much larger environmental consideration and a big part of maintaining good indoor air quality in our homes. From global Saharan Dust that fertilizes the Amazon RainForest to Toxic Dust residing in our homes, this ain’t the dust your Mom was used to dealing with.
What’s the Big Deal About Dust
We’ve all heard about those giant globs of dust called “Dust Bunnies”, but today we are interested in “Respirable Dust” that is much smaller, hangs in the air longer, and collects and concentrates in our homes.
You would think that we’d all know about how dangerous this stuff is and that breathing clean indoor air would be a top priority for just about everyone. Unfortunately, it isn’t. We usually start thinking about good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) only when we can’t breathe or more commonly when we can’t stop coughing and sneezing from all the toxic dust associated with degraded IAQ.
What is Toxic Dust (TD)?
Toxic Dust particles can be everything from very fine minerals, pesticides, and Biological Pollutants to inert dust soaked in Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) and nano-particles from burning fuel and chemical reactions. Scientists like to call it Particulate Matter (PM) and categorize its size as less than 2.5 micrometers (𝜇m) in size. PM 2.5 is incredibly small, being 100 times thinner than human hair. When outside you can spot it if you are paying attention. When elevated concentrations are in the air, it’s the cause of reduced visibility and causes the air to appear “hazy”.
How Do You Know You Have a Toxic Dust Problem?
Dust knows no bounds and can affect just about anyone: biological pollutant components usually affect sensitive individuals where chemicals can affect a broader group of folks. The routes of exposure range from through your skin, eyes, and ingestion to respiration and skin effects. Just depends on the type of dust. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), whatever the dust, if it is deposited in your head or lungs, it has the potential to cause bodily harm or disease.
When Spring Cleaning you can become immersed in concentrated Toxic Dust very quickly. Watch out for odd health-related issues like sudden rashes or sores to trouble sleeping and central nervous symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and fatigue shortly after Spring Cleaning. Those are sure signs you might have a Toxic Dust problem.
Where Does Toxic Dust Hide
Toxic Dust often hides in plain sight. When airborne, it is practically invisible to the naked eye. You might catch a glimpse of it in the morning when having breakfast and that stream of early morning sunlight seems to illuminate all those tiny particles in the air. But remember, that for every piece you see, there are a dozen more that you can’t see. Give all that particulate material enough time and it will settle down and concentrate in the oddest places.
Nearly all dust particles are positively charged so they tend to be attracted to negatively charged ions and surfaces. We find it attached everywhere: on your walls and ceilings, inside electronics to on top of rarely used ceiling fans and tops of the window trim. It embeds deep down into carpet fibers, pillows, and bedding to behind the glass on your framed pictures. It’s everywhere.
Finding All This Hard To Believe
Most folks have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality regarding all Toxic Dust and air quality stuff. In fact, those “smart folks” might even tell you that the Government has standards for all this. Well, under the Clean Air Act that was last amended in 1990, National Standards for six (6) principal pollutants were established where PM2.5 and PM10 (Very Fine Particulate Matter or Toxic Dust) are included. But if you drill down through the data, exceeding the established limits a few times a year is enough to increase your risk. Besides, who really monitors the air that they breathe on a daily basis anyway. The experts do agree that adhering to the minimum air quality standards still presents health issues where avoiding bad air quality should be everyone’s goal.
But My Home is Very Clean
Toxic Dust is in and around every home and makes up a big part of the home’s dust burden. No matter how clean your home looks, Toxic Dust is an emerging concern. Even a spotless home may have issues with Toxic Dust that you just can’t detect with the naked eye. Your biggest exposure in these types of homes is with annual Spring Cleaning when you can be exposed to larger than normal amounts of concentrated dust.
How Can I Correct This Myself
In general, heightening your awareness of Toxic Dust, air quality standards and good home hygiene is a good place to start. Proper ventilation and air distribution are also a big help. Many times you can tweak your current cleaning regime to reduce Toxic Dust loads by:
- Upgrading / Replacing air filters more regularly (True HEPA grade filters)
- Clean your home more thoroughly and frequently with HEPA vacuum cleaners
- Have ducts cleaned regularly by a NADCA certified duct cleaning firm
- Add stand-alone or In-Line Air purifiers (like Austin Air Machines)
- Electronically monitor Particulate Material (PM2.5 & PM10) for elevated dust loads
- Even removing your shoes when entering your home helps prevent the spread of dust you carry into the home on your shoes
But remember, this is a complicated matter that is a string of seemingly insignificant events. So don’t expect a magic cure to appear overnight. This definitely isn’t the dust that your Mom took care of when you were a kid.
Still Have Toxic Dust Concerns
While the problem appears pretty simple at first, the reality is that getting rid of Toxic Dust may drive you a bit “batty” in the long run. The Building Biologists at GreenWorks most likely have dealt with similar Toxic Dust challenges before. Try reaching out to GreenWorks via their Contact Portal to figure out your next step to improving your IAQ.