Allergies, Clean Air

What Is Dust? Dead Skin, Pollen, Insect Waste and Dirt!


Dust or any type of air pollution puts your health at risk. But dust is everywhere, including outer space. It is created by volcanoes, burning plants or fuels, or is created by meteorites entering the atmosphere.

Since we spend up to 90% of our time indoors, the best way to tackle air quality problems is right at home or in the office. Except there is a catch. While dust can be made of many different particles, there is one very human cause of indoor pollution that can be difficult to eliminate.

What Is Indoor Dust Made Out Of?

Mostly your skin!

Human skin is the largest organ of the body and is consists of several layers, including the epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (inner layer). Over time, skin cells in the dermis divide and push the old cells towards the surface of the body. These old cells eventually fill with keratin, a protein, that makes skin durable and helps protect the body. During a 30-day period, the epidermis fully sheds and is replaced with new cells.

If you are wondering, skin cells account for roughly 14% of the estimated 35 billion cells in the human body. As a result, upwards of 40,000 skin cells fall off every hour and can reach a million or more cell over a 24-hour period. That number of cells leaving the body and floating up into the air begins to add up and is believed to account for up to 80% of all dust in the home.

The remaining particle come from the local environmental, including those listed below.

  • Soil
  • Plant Pollen
  • Insect Waste
  • Mold Spores
  • Human Hair
  • Animal Hair
  • Textile Fibers
  • Paper Fibers
  • Lead
  • Cooking Ingredients (Flour, Sugar, Salt, Spices)
  • Minerals
  • Pet Dander
  • Carbon
  • Brake Dust
  • Construction
  • Aerosols
  • Volcanic Ash
  • Automotive Emissions
  • Industrial Emissions
  • Meteorite Particles

Depending on where you live, air currents and many other factors, the types of particle that form indoor dust can vary.

How Dust Gets Into Your House

Knowing what dust is made out of it is far easier to explain why we see particles floating in a ray of sunlight coming through a window or why after wiping down a surface it becomes visibly dirty soon after. Some factors can make these problems worse, such as having pets in the home, if you cook frequently, someone smokes tobacco inside, or you have a wood burning fireplace with inadequate ventilation.

Besides the dust that you produce inside the home, you also transfer in particles stuck to the bottom of your shoes, clothing, become trapped in animal fur, or blow inside when you open windows or doors.

Why Is Dust Bad?

At its worst, dust irritates tissue or damages cells in the lungs and bronchial tubes that can contribute to respiratory diseases; and at its best, dust makes surfaces look dirty or causes mild allergy related symptoms.

The primary cause of irritation and allergic reactions to dust is because of dust mites. Skin contains collagen that is made of fibrous proteins that are the primary food source of dust mists. When inhaled, dust mites enter the respiratory system and release enzymes that dry out tissue so they can be more easily consumed.

Aerosols, burnt fossil fuel particles, lead and other more harmful particles from industrial sources can aggravate existing conditions or contribute to new respiratory conditions.

In either case, minimizing exposure to dust of all kinds is important. Regular cleaning and replacing air filters will help to control dust in the home and reduce the risk of exposure to potentially harmful particles.

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