Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

Rick Dubrow’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Published 4-18-07

Everyone knows what dust is – dead skin, dirt, pieces of fabric, right?  Well, guess what:  there’s more.  Chemicals, pesticides, rubber, dust mites – all these and more comprise the dust in our indoor environments.  Basically, we’re describing pulverized, ground-up civilization.

What many people don’t know is that toxic chemicals are brought into the home all the time, just from wearing your shoes inside, or from your pets coming in after romping around in the outdoors.  These outside pollutants become part of the dust in your carpet, and the air in your home. Worse yet, outdoor UV rays that break down much of the toxins are not acting inside your home, so they tend to accumulate.

Let’s consider the health implications of living alongside our ground up world and then suggest a path for you to resolve this dusty issue.

Dust mites are the most potent source of allergens in house dust.  Dust mites are microscopic, insects that live in pillows, mattresses, carpets, upholstered furniture, etc.  Magnify a dust mite photograph and its like tuning into the sci-fi channel on your tube.  They thrive in warm, humid conditions, and eat shed skin scales from human skin.  It’s the waste that they produce that people react to – in other words, their poop.  Dust mites are so prevalent that about 20-30% of the weight of the pillow on your bed is made up of dust mites and the waste they make!  And that’s where we lie our heads for about a third of our life…. sleeping.  Prolonged exposure to these can cause allergic reactions.  With twenty percent of the U.S. population suffering from active allergies and asthma, an estimated eight to twelve percent are known to be caused by the poop of these tiny critters.

Dust mites aren’t the only thing we have to be concerned with.  Pesticides are also found in house dust.  PCP is often found in the dust of houses where wood preservatives have been used to treat wood.  Lead, a chemical which causes learning disabilities in children, is found just outside the foundation of our older homes, as a result of sanding and scraping past layers of lead paint.  Road dust, wood and coal smoke, and other potential carcinogens also pose a threat in dust.  Having all of these substances in your home raises the risk of allergic reactions, sickness, and cancer.

Because of their immature immune systems, children are especially susceptible to the dangers of their environment. The youngsters tend to ingest a lot of dust and other pollutants because they play on the floor.  They stomp, they jump, and they put things in their mouths.  It’s exactly these things that cause them to form allergies and other sicknesses.  Many allergies are developed in toddlers from prolonged exposure to dust, and the patterns continue to get worse over time.  Twenty-five years ago, one in twenty-five children inWashingtonStatewere diagnosed with asthma.  Now the number has risen to one in ten children, and one in fourteen adults.  With all these dangers that house dust pose to us, what can we do?

Rick Dubrow, aka the “First Hammer,” can provide insight into some simple and fairly inexpensive strategies on his radio show, “On the Level,” which aired on March 24th and April 7th.  The show is also available anytime via their website at Click on the ‘podcast’ button. Rick is a local authority on healthy housing, green building practices, and he’s also the owner of A-1 Builders and Adaptations, their design division.  From 1991 through 1994, “On the Level” was aired on KGMI.  It addressed concerns related to remodeling and new construction. Now it’s making a comeback on theAmericanMuseum of Radio and Electricity’s station, KMRE 102.3 FM. Ultimately, “On the Level” aims to educate listeners about the care and feeding of healthy homes, healthy neighborhoods and a healthy environment.  Rick’s focus for this particular show is all about the dust in your home:   what it is, how it gets there, where it goes when it is allowed to settle, and how to solve these problems with some pretty simple actions.  By listening to his show you can get further educated on how to protect yourself, your home, and your family from dangerous amounts of house dust, and ultimately, stay healthy.

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