Characterizing contaminants in indoor air and house dust to evaluate product sources and pathways of exposure
People spend a majority of their time indoors, particularly in our homes. This is particularly true for young children, who are estimated to spend on average 95% of their time indoors. While our homes provide us with protection from the weather, and provide us with comfortable spaces to sleep, eat and grow, they are also the primary place where we receive exposure to a number of different chemicals.
Many products common to the home environment, including insulation, flooring, wiring and electronic products (e.g. TVs) have chemicals added to the materials to alter their properties (e.g. make them more flexible, or provide flame-retardant properties). As a consequence, the concentrations of these types of chemicals in indoor air and indoor dust particles are significantly higher than concentrations in outdoor air or soil. For example, research studies conducted on house dust suggest there can be more than 5,000 different chemicals present in one sample alone. As a result, people, and particularly children, receive exposure to mixtures of chemicals in the home. While it’s still unclear how these exposures in the home affect our health, a growing body of research has found that exposure to some of these chemicals (e.g. phthalates and flame retardants) are associated with health issues such as fertility, cancer and neurodevelopmental deficits.
Research studies conducted within the Falk Foundation Environmental Exposomics Laboratory seeks to understand how people are exposed to these chemicals in the home environment, and identify the primary sources or products in the home contributing to our exposure. We also seek to understand how exposure to mixtures in the home may be contributing to health disparities and identify solutions to reduce exposures. By making more informed decisions about not only the materials we use to build our homes, but also about products we bring into the home, we can lead healthier lives.