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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
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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
202-872-6042
American Chemical Society
9-Mar-2004


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