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New Research Says Dust Could Contribute To Weight Gain

Chemicals found in household dust may contribute to fat cell growth, according to new research.

Researchers from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment collected dust samples from 194 households in the US state of North Carolina, broke them down into the chemicals they contained, and tested whether these could promote fat cell growth.

According to one of the study's authors, Christopher Kassotis, Ph.D. they could. And the results could be linked to obesity in children.

"We found that two-thirds of dust extracts were able to promote fat cell development and half promote precursor fat cell proliferation," said the study.

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The researchers actually measured more than 100 different chemicals in the dust and looked at the relationship between their concentrations and the extent of fat cell development. They found that approximately 70 of the chemicals had a significant positive relationship with the development of dust-induced fat cells, and approximately 40 were linked with precursor fat cell development.

"This suggests that mixtures of chemicals occurring in the indoor environment might be driving these effects," Kassotis said.

Dust is basically a cocktail of dead skin cells, dirt from outdoors and other residue from furniture, cleaning products and cookware, and researchers found several chemicals were significantly elevated in the dust of homes of children who were overweight or obese.  It also found that dust had adverse effects in the lab at 100 micrograms, or approximately 1,000 times lower levels than what children consume on a daily basis. At this stage, researchers hadn't looked into what this could mean for adults.

READ MORE: The Complicated Minefield Of Tackling Childhood Obesity

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Last year, another study out of the European Society of Endocrinology also found that house dust is one of the most common sources of a class of chemicals known as obesogens, which interfere with how our bodies store and process fat.

"We definitely are not saying that house dust will make people fat. This is a preliminary step in that pathway. So, first, we're showing that house dust can stimulate the development of fat cells in the lab," said Dr Kassotis on Living on Earth.

He went on to say that there are things you can do immediately, to lessen the effect of dust on your family and your household -- like try to use natural cleaning products and remove your shoes when you come inside for starters.

READ MORE: 28 Surprising Cleaning Hacks That Really Work (So You Don't Have To)

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"What we normally tell people is, if you're concerned, then there are plenty of steps that can be taken to reduce exposure to these chemicals," he added. "So, one of the things that we often tell people is that dusting frequently is a good way to reduce exposure. With that said, we suspect that dry dusting may just actually kick these chemicals back up in the air and make it easier to inhale them. So, it really should be a wet dusting to avoid increasing your exposure to these chemicals."

Feature image: Getty.