SEGH Articles

DustSafe Citizen Science Study: Harmful contaminants in house dust

07 June 2019
Khadija Jabeen and Jane Entwistle Faculty of Engineering & Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK tell us about DustSafe, a global citizen-science project.

Household air pollution results in an estimated 4.25 million premature deaths globally each year (WHO, 2014), representing a significant, and growing contemporary public health challenge. The majority of these deaths are associated with fine particulate matter (PM), or ‘dust’, with PM declared a carcinogen by IARC in 2003. Exposure to PM can initiate or enhance disease in humans, yet the nature of the hazard that house dust presents remains poorly characterized from a toxicological and a source perspective (Moschet et al., 2018). As over 80% of the average day is spent in homes, workplaces and/or travel, indoor exposure to dust and its intrinsic physical, chemical and biological entities represents one of modern society’s greatest potential exposures to harmful substances (EPA,2015). Dust can penetrate deep into the lung and contain harmful agents, including metal(oids), microbes and other allergens. With reports of poor air quality regularly making headline news, the study of our indoor home biome (Fig. 1), has never been more timely or of mass popular interest and relevance.

Fig. 1 Components of the indoor biome

Fig. 1 Components of the indoor biome

House dust is an important environmental matrix due to its function as a repository of pollutants produced from various anthropogenic and biogenic processes. Such indoor dusts are a reservoir for toxic metal(oids), such as lead, cadmium and arsenic, many of which have been detected at environmentally relevant concentrations (Reis et al., 2018; Rasmussen et al., 2013), and recent studies highlight links between environmental pollutants in our house dusts and the health of children living in those homes (Kollitz et al. 2018).

Fig. 2 DustSafe citizen science promotional flyer


DustSafe is a global citizen-science project (Fig. 2) and a collaboration between a number of universities, including Northumbria University (UK), Macquarie University (Australia) and Indiana-Purdue University (USA). The aim is to provide a detailed understanding of the intrinsic characteristics and global variability of our indoor home dust biome, focusing on selected chemical, physical and biological characteristics and attendant hazards.

DustSafe needs YOU (well, actually it needs your dust)please register at the website (www.360dustanalysis.com) and send us your vacuum cleaner dust, or bring a sample along to the Society for Environmental Geochemistry’s (SEGH) 35th International Conference in Manchester this year.

Sample your vacuum cleaner today and join DustSafe (Further details of what/how to sample available on the website). Look out for us at SEGH’s 35th International Conference in July this year where will be presenting initial UK results from this exciting citizen-led initiative. Contact Khadija Jabeen for more details (Khadija.jabeen@northumbria.ac.uk).



                   Fig. 2 DustSafe citizen science promotional flyer


References

EPA 2015 https://cfpub.epa.gov/roe/chapter/air/indoorair.cfm

Kollitz et al. 2018 ES&T 52:11857-64

Moschet et al. 2018 ES&T 52:2878–87

Rasmussen et al. 2013 Sci Total Environ 443:520–529

Reis et al. 2018 Environ Sci Process Impacts 20:1210–24

WHO 2014 Burden of disease from household air pollution

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Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Arsenic exposure and perception of health risk due to groundwater contamination in Majuli (river island), Assam, India 2019-07-19

    Abstract

    Island populations are rarely studied for risk of arsenic (As) poisoning. As poisoning, multimetal contamination and people’s perceptions of health risks were assessed on India’s Majuli Island, the largest inhabited river island in the world. This holistic approach illustrated the association of groundwater contamination status with consequent health risk by measuring levels of inorganic arsenic (iAs) in groundwater, borehole sediment and biological samples (hair, nails and urine). Piper and Gibbs’s plots discerned the underlying hydrogeochemical processes in the aquifer. Demographic data and qualitative factors were evaluated to assess the risks and uncertainties of exposure. The results exhibited significant enrichment of groundwater with As, Mn and Fe along with significant body burden. Maximum Hazard Index values indicated severe non-carcinogenic health impacts as well as a significantly elevated risk of cancer for both adults and children. Most (99%) of the locally affected population did not know about the adverse health impacts of metal contamination, and only 15% understood bodily ailments and health issues. Various aspects of the island environment were used to elucidate the status of contamination and future risk of disease. A projection showed adverse health outcomes rising significantly, especially among the young population of Majuli, due to overexposure to not only As but also Ba, Mn and Fe.

  • The contents of the potentially harmful elements in the arable soils of southern Poland, with the assessment of ecological and health risks: a case study 2019-07-19

    Abstract

    Agricultural soil samples were collected from the areas where edible plants had been cultivated in southern Poland. The PHE content decreased in proportion to the median value specified in brackets (mg/kg d.m.) as follows: Zn (192) > Pb (47.1) > Cr (19.6) > Cu (18.8) > Ni (9.91) > As (5.73) > Co (4.63) > Sb (0.85) > Tl (0.04) > Cd (0.03) > Hg (0.001) > Se (< LOQ). No PHE concentrations exceeded the permissible levels defined in the Polish law. The PHE solubility (extracted with CaCl2) in the total concentration ranged in the following order: Fe (3.3%) > Cd (2.50%) > Ni (0.75%) > Zn (0.48%) > Cu (0.19%) > Pb (0.10%) > Cr (0.03%). The soil contamination indices revealed moderate contamination with Zn, ranging from uncontaminated to moderately contaminated with Pb, and, practically, no contamination with other PHEs was identified. The ecological risk indices revealed that soils ranged from uncontaminated to slightly contaminated with Zn, Pb, As, Cu, and Ni. The PCA indicated natural sources of origin of Co, Cu, Hg, Sb, Zn, Cr, and Pb, as well as anthropogenic sources of origin of Cd, Ni, As, and Tl. The human health risk assessment (HHRA) for adults and children decreased in the following order of exposure pathways: ingestion > dermal contact > inhalation of soil particles. The total carcinogenic risk values for both adults and children were at the acceptable level under residential (1.62E−05 and 6.39E−05) and recreational scenario (5.41E−06 and 2.46E−05), respectively, as well as for adults in agricultural scenario (1.45E−05). The total non-carcinogenic risk values for both adults and children under residential scenario (1.63E−01 and 4.55E−01, respectively), under recreational scenario (2.88E−01 and 6.69E−01, respectively) and for adults (1.03E−01) under agricultural scenario indicated that adverse health effects were not likely to be observed. Investigated soils were fully suitable for edible plant cultivation.

  • Using human hair and nails as biomarkers to assess exposure of potentially harmful elements to populations living near mine waste dumps 2019-07-17

    Abstract

    Potentially harmful elements (PHEs) manganese (Mn), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni) and zinc (Zn) were measured in human hair/nails, staple crops and drinking water to ascertain the level of exposure to dust transference via wind and rain erosion for members of the Mugala community living near a mine waste dump in the Zambian Copperbelt. The mean PHE concentrations of hair in decreasing order were Zn (137 ± 21 mg/kg), Cu (38 ± 7 mg/kg), Mn (16 ± 2 mg/kg), Pb (4.3 ± 1.9 mg/kg), Ni (1.3 ± 0.2 mg/kg) and Cr (1.2 ± 0.2 mg/kg), Co (0.9 ± 0.2 mg/kg) and Cd (0.30 ± 0.02 mg/kg). Whilst for toenails the decreasing order of mean concentrations was Zn (172 ± 27 mg/kg), Cu (30 ± 5 mg/kg), Mn (12 ± 2 mg/kg), Pb (4.8 ± 0.5 mg/kg), Ni (1.7 ± 0.14 mg/kg) and Co (1.0 ± 0.02 mg/kg), Cr (0.6 ± 0.1 mg/kg) and Cd (0.1 ± 0.002 mg/kg). The concentration of these potentially harmful elements (PHEs) varied greatly among different age groups. The results showed that Mn, Co, Pb, Cd and Zn were above the interval values (Biolab in Nutritional and environmental medicine, Hair Mineral Analysis, London, 2012) at 0.2–2.0 mg/kg for Mn, 0.01–0.20 mg/kg for Co, < 2.00 mg/kg for Pb, < 0.10 mg/kg for Cd and 0.2–2.00 mg/kg for Zn, whilst Ni, Cu and Cr concentrations were within the normal range concentrations of < 1.40 mg/kg, 10–100 mg/kg and 0.1–1.5 mg/kg, respectively. Dietary intake of PHEs was assessed from the ingestion of vegetables grown in Mugala village, with estimated PHE intakes expressed on a daily basis calculated for Mn (255), Pb (48), Ni (149) and Cd (33) µg/kg bw/day. For these metals, DI via vegetables was above the proposed limits of the provisional tolerable daily intakes (PTDIs) (WHO in Evaluation of certain food additive and contaminants, Seventy-third report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, 2011) for Mn at 70 µg/kg bw/day, Pb at 3 µg/kg bw/day, Ni and Cd 5 µg/kg bw/day and 1 µg/kg bw/day, respectively. The rest of the PHEs listed were within the PTDIs limits. Therefore, Mugala inhabitants are at imminent health risk due to lead, nickel and cadmium ingestion of vegetables and drinking water at this location.