Our group’s latest research has been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The article, “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Dust Collected from Residential Homes and Fire Stations in North America,” describes the levels of several PFAS we measured in dust samples.
For this study, indoor dust was collected from the main living areas in homes and in fire stations. A total of 184 homes and 49 fire stations were sampled from across the United States and Canada.
The dust samples were then analyzed for 17 different PFAS using liquid and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in our lab. We investigated dust from fire stations in addition to residential homes because firefighters could be exposed to PFAS from other sources, like turnout gear and aqueous film-forming foams.
Some notable findings from our study:
- Two groups of PFAS known as FTOHs and diPAPs were the most prevalent in dust.
- Dust samples from homes were higher in 8:2 FTOH.
- Dust samples from fire stations were higher in PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, and 6:2 diPAP.
- Levels in dust are decreasing for legacy PFAS such as PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS.
- Buildings with more carpeting had higher levels of FTOHs in dust.
Since we collected dust from the main living areas, the PFAS we found are likely from sources such as carpeting, clothing, and consumer products. Although we found that the levels of legacy PFAS in dust has been declining since the early 2000s, we did find that 8:2 FTOH levels in dust have increased. Other researchers have found that replacing furniture with PFAS-free products reduces the level of PFAS in dust.
Dust and the indoor environment can be another important pathway of human exposure to PFAS, in addition to drinking water and diet. This is especially true for us now as we spend more time than ever in our homes. PFAS have been associated with negative health outcomes like cancer, higher cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Reducing PFAS in dust may help prevent some of those health issues—though we need more research to understand how dust PFAS levels relate to levels in humans.