Microbes in household dust can break down harmful chemicals

ScienceDaily | 4/10/2019 | Staff
stefania (Posted by) Level 3
The study, published online in the journal Environmental Sciences: Process Impacts, is the first of its kind to show that microbes can break down these chemicals, called phthalates. Microbes grow rapidly in humid environments, breaking down harmful chemicals as they grow. But that humidity -- and that microbial growth -- could cause even more problems, including mold and musty air, the study found.

Still, the study is a starting point to understanding how to deal with harmful chemicals indoors.

People - Lot - Activity - Indoor - Environment

"Previously, people thought there really wasn't a lot of microbial activity happening in the indoor environment," said Karen Dannemiller, director of the Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory at The Ohio State University and co-author of the study. "We knew microbes were shed from human skin or tracked in from outdoors, and we thought they sat there and didn't do anything. This study shows that is not always the case."

Instead, the researchers found, those microbes are eating away at potentially harmful chemicals in dust -- chemicals that are part of everyday, modern life.

Phthalates - Plastics - Vinyl - Fragrances - Adhesives

Phthalates are most commonly used to make plastics and vinyl. They are present in some fragrances, many adhesives and certain shampoos and other personal care products. The term covers an entire group of chemicals, and studies have shown that they can affect the human endocrine system, which includes human reproductive organs. One such chemical, di-ethylhexyl phthalate -- DEHP -- can cause cancer.

"We should care about these chemicals because they have public health implications," said Ashleigh Bope, co-author of the study and a PhD student in environmental science at Ohio State. "And we know that these chemicals can be degraded in other systems -- like aquatic systems and soils -- but we have high exposure to them indoors, so it was important for us to see if biodegradation was actually occurring in the indoor...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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