Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Household activities release a cloud of dust, increasing exposure to particulate pollution


Ordinary household activities, from dusting to dancing, can increase your exposure to particulate pollution, according to a new study. Whether you are cutting the rug or just vacuuming it, you may be inhaling tiny dust particles that could be harmful to your health.

The report, which quantifies some common indoor activities, appears in the March 15 edition of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Particles can accumulate in the respiratory system and aggravate health problems like asthma. Homes are filled with these particles, which often come from outdoors, cooking, smoking, heating equipment and, according to the study, dust kicked up from human activities.

"I measured concentrations of airborne particles continuously while performing a variety of normal human activities that resuspend house dust in the home," says Andrea Ferro, Ph.D., a professor of engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. She did the work as part of her dissertation research at Stanford University.

Ferro and her coworkers placed particle detectors in a house in Redwood City, Calif., and then they folded clothes, dusted, made beds, vacuumed and did other everyday activities — not to mention some less common ones, like dancing. They applied a mathematical model to estimate the strength of each source.

Dusting, of course, kicked up a significant amount of particles, but it wasn’t the biggest contributor. "The highest source was from two people just walking around and sitting on furniture," Ferro says. This released particles at a rate of almost two milligrams per minute - about half as much as smoking a cigarette.

Dancing on a rug emitted as many particles as dusting, which wasn’t too surprising, Ferro says, since dancing is a vigorous activity. "The source strengths depended on the number of persons performing the activity, the vigor of the activity, the type of activity and the type of flooring," she says. Dancing on a wooden floor was near the bottom of the list.

Not only did Ferro design the study, but she also performed the activities. What kind of dance did she do? "Probably best described as solo salsa," she says. "Luckily, I did not take any videotape."

Vacuuming was also a large source of particles. Vacuum brushes release deeply embedded particles from the carpet; the motor produces additional particles; and the bags are not 100 percent efficient in collecting particles, Ferro says. Only one type of vacuum was tested; different cleaners could produce different results, depending on the design.

"The result that was most surprising to me was that just walking around can resuspend almost as much dust as vacuuming," Ferro says.

The majority of the particles were larger than five micrometers in diameter, but smaller particles still played a significant role. "Smaller particles tend to deposit deeper in the lungs than the larger particles, potentially causing more harm," Ferro says. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies these as "fine particles," which have been associated with increased respiratory disease, decreased lung functioning and even premature death.

The results could help people make a variety of decisions about living in their homes. "One study estimates that about two-thirds of house dust is tracked in from outdoors," Ferro says. "Therefore, leaving shoes at the door can make a big difference in reducing the particle reservoir on the floor." She also recommends leaving windows open while cleaning to increase ventilation; limiting the use of toxic household products, like pesticides; and installing non-carpet flooring.

Ferro has since performed another study in a different home, with similar results. "My focus now is to determine the actual mechanisms for resuspension from human activity and perform the work in an indoor air chamber where I can control more of the variables," she says.

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>