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All About House Dust

Welcome to the February edition of our Educational E-Newsletter. This month we're discussing Dust: What Is House Dust, Why Does It Make You Sneeze, & How Can You Avoid It?

Perhaps I shouldn't admit it, but on a few occasions, I've been overdue on changing my air cleaner's filters. My poor pre-filter was absolutely caked with grayish-white gook... house dust. I'm always astonished by what kind of fuzz and dust my bedroom can produce. I'm also thankful that my air cleaner is doing its job: trapping those large particles that I can see, and the tiny harmful ones that I can't see. If you're curious about what exactly makes up those dust bunnies or the gook on your air filter, read on to find out.


Katie Weaver & The National
Allergy Newsletter Team

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What Is House Dust, Why Does It Make You Sneeze, & How Can You Avoid It?

What Is House Dust?

Dust Grabber Magnetic House Dust Cloth From National Allergy The majority of house dust is our dead skin cells, but it also contains a mixture of ash, cloth fibers, hair, plant pollen, human and animal dander, soil particles, and fungal spores. In fact, about 80 percent of the material seen floating in a sunbeam is actually skin flakes.

You may notice that you didn't see dust mites in the house dust ingredients list. That's because you won't find live dust mites living in the house dust on your bookshelf or in that dust bunny that hides in the corner of your living room floor. Dust mites just can't survive on the surface of things; they need to burrow deep into bedding, upholstery, and carpeting (that's why we recommend encasing your mattresses and pillows). So while lots of settled dust may indicate a prevalence of mites, cleanliness isn't a hard and fast measure of allergen control! You can keep a very clean home yet still be suffering from the invisible allergens in the air.

Why Does House Dust Make Me Sneeze?

To answer this question, let's take a closer look at the makeup of common household dust and we'll discover that not only is it dead skin, but often allergenic particles as well.
  • Dead Skin Cells are food for dust mites. That's why mites like our mattresses and pillows so much because there is both moisture and food for them to enjoy. So, since mites are thriving in our homes, that means that house dust also includes.
  • Dust Mite Allergen. We know that what goes in, must come out, and that's what mite allergen is: dust mite feces. The proteins in this allergen cause millions to sneeze and sniffle.
  • Pollen Granules are a common allergen for millions of Americans. Pollen is another reason why it's wise to limit house dust from collecting. A number of pollens are particularly problematic in spring and fall.
  • Pet Dander is an allergen that you may be exposed to more than you think. Recent data has indicated that even if you don't have pets in your home, you may still have pet dander: it tends to stick to clothes and shoes and can reside deep in carpeting or furniture for years and years.
  • Mold Spore
  • Mold Spore also lives in house dust. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), "Mold can trigger your immune system to react and cause hay fever symptoms, and it can also set off or worsen asthma in susceptible individuals. Molds or fungi may also directly irritate the upper respiratory passages of the nose, sinuses and the lungs". While not all mold spore found in dust is harmful, in home environments with leaks, excess moisture or high humidity, mold spore can thrive during any season.

What Else Can Be Found In My Home's Dust?

Believe it or not, there are professionals who study house dust and do experiments on its content and effects. Scientists know that in addition to those sneeze-able ingredients listed above, house dust also includes fibers from clothing and carpet, hair, food particles and tiny flecks of paint. These particles are not generally harmful, however, scientists have discovered a few more elements of concern in common house dust.

For example, the Canadian Environmental Health Directorate states that, "Canadian pre-schoolers, especially older infants and toddlers, spend most of their time indoors and ingest household dust through normal, repetitive hand-to-mouth activities." Thus, researchers sought to determine whether elements of house dust are dangerous. Some of the things they and other researchers have found include lead, zinc, iron and manganese. Noted in this study was the comparably higher instance of lead in indoor house dust versus street dust and garden soil.

You may be familiar with the potentially harmful effects of lead. Public awareness increased after paint and other household materials used within the last century were shown to have very high lead content. For this reason, older homes can have more lead prevalence in house dust than newer homes. However, the Canadian house dust report notes that both mercury and lead may also be present in newer homes that have electric heating versus gas or oil. If you are concerned with the prevalence of lead in your home, most hardware stores have lead measurement tests.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking to create a standardized form of common house dust. As their report states, "Environmental scientists are quite serious about the potential for household grime to harbor harmful chemicals." Read more from the Institute's press release.

How Can I Limit & Avoid House Dust?

"Our lungs were made to last a lifetime. But if we want to get the most of that time, we should maintain a good indoor air quality."
- Lois Turley, RN. Lois operates the informational site
Hunter QuietFlo 30401 We agree with Lois that maintaining good home air quality can make a big difference in your family's health. One good purification method is to use a powerful and efficient room air cleaner. These air filters trap small and large particulates that may eventually settle as house dust including pollen, mold spore and pet dander. If you are particularly concerned about chemicals and VOC's in your house dust, an air cleaner with more specialized filtration may be the best choice for you.

A high-efficiency furnace filter can also do wonders to trap particles that circulate through your home's HVAC system. Combine a furnace filter with a DustChek Vent Filter, which electrostatically captures "house dust" that's resting in your duct work, and you should see a significant reduction in household dust particles.

Handy Tools For Dust Reduction

For the dust that doesn't get trapped by these filtration devices, there are a number of cleaning tools that won't irritate your allergies.
  • The Dust Grabber uses magnetic charge to attract particles: no chemicals, no grease, no mess. I love the Dust Grabber because it's washable, too.
  • Our Action Fiber Multi-Purpose Mop uses this same Dust Grabber technology in the form of a handy mop that's great for collected dust and grime on hardwood, bathroom tile and other hard surfaces. Plus, there's no extra waste or refills to buy like other disposable brands.
  • The Sticky Critter rolls away pet hair, lint and dust from furniture, blinds and other home surfaces. And it's washable so no refills are needed.
  • A HEPA Vacuum Cleaner is an important cleaning tool that allows you to capture dust and dirt without spraying it back into the air you breathe.
  • The DirtTamer Ultima is the perfect solution for small messes. This powerful, wet/dry hand vac has a HEPA filter, too.
  • AllerDust Dusting Aid will turn your favorite feather duster or old rag into a super-efficient duster with just a few sprays.

Remember that wintertime means more time indoors where you are exposed to the allergens and other potentially harmful elements of dust mites. Be sure you're keeping house dust under control.

National Allergy E-Mail Newsletter The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.

Remember that our customer service representatives have plenty of experience guiding people through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to contact us by calling one of our phone experts at 1-800-522-1448 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time. You can also e-mail us at


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