Chemicals in house dust may be linked to increase in body fat, study shows

Chemicals in house dust may be linked to increase in body fat, study shows

Can a dusty home make us fat? Maybe so. A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology showed that exposing mice to endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in dust around our homes may has a negative effect on their metabolic health, which could result in an increase in body fat.

To conduct the study, researchers from Duke University first needed to find out how common endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are in everyday house dust. EDCs are found in household cleaning products, pesticides, cosmetics and food packaging and can interfere with the way our hormones function.

EDCs have been linked to cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, infertility, weight gain and childhood obesity. Household dust is known to harbor these potentially harmful chemicals.

The research team visited 11 homes in North Carolina to collect samples to analyze for levels of EDCs. In total, the samples revealed a total of 44 contaminants.

The researchers then exposed fat cells from mice to the collected dust samples. Once exposed to the EDC-laden dust, the fat cells started to mature and acquire more fat. Extracts from nine of the 11 samples also caused cell proliferation, which increased the number of fat cells.

In fact, just 3 micrograms of dust triggered the fat-proliferating effects. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, children typically ingest, inhale or absorb about 50 milligrams of house dust every day, well above 3 micrograms.

The researchers said while the study is preliminary and based on a somewhat small sample of homes, the results indicate a need for further study of this health risk.

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