Gender-bending chemicals in DUST ‘could be making children fat’

Gender-bending chemicals found in household DUST ‘could be making children obese’ because they trigger fat cells to grow

  • Household dust contains up to 70 chemicals known to cause fat cells to develop
  • Chemicals are higher in the dust of homes of overweight or obese children  
  • Children consume between 60 and 100 milligrams of dust every day 

As the months start to get warmer, many of us welcome the new season with a spring clean.

But rather than just making your house more homely, clearing away dust may also stop your children piling on the pounds.  

A study that collected more than 190 dust samples from homes in the US revealed the household grime can contain up to 70 gender-bending chemicals.

When tested in the laboratory, these chemicals triggered fat cell development and multiplication.

The chemicals – which may come from paint, laundry detergent or cosmetics – were also higher in the dust of homes of overweight or obese children, the study revealed. 

Gender-bending chemicals found in household dust ‘could be making children fat’ (stock)

The study was carried out by Duke University and led by post doctoral research associate Dr Christopher Kassotis, from the Nicholas School of the Environment.  

‘This is some of the first research investigating links between exposure to chemical mixtures present in the indoor environment and metabolic health of children living in those homes,’ Dr Kassotis said.

The researchers collected 194 dust samples from homes in central North Carolina.

Chemicals from this dust were then extracted in the laboratory and tested for their ability to promote fat cell development.

Results – presented at the Endocrine Society’s conference in New Orleans – suggest even very low levels of dust can trigger fat cell development and multiplication.

‘We found that two-thirds of dust extracts were able to promote fat cell development,’ Dr Kassotis said.

‘And half promote precursor fat cell proliferation at 100 micrograms, or approximately 1,000 times lower levels than what children consume on a daily basis.’

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, children consume between 60 and 100 milligrams of dust every day. There are 1,000 micrograms in a milligram.

In a second part of the experiment, the researchers looked at more than 100 different chemicals in the dust and how these influence fat cell development.

They found around 70 of the chemicals have a ‘significant positive relationship with the development of dust-induced fat cells’.

And approximately 40 chemicals were linked to ‘precursor fat cell development’. 

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

The researchers will continue to study these chemicals to determine which are specifically linked to obesity. 


Dusting and mopping is not most people’s idea of fun but it may be vital to our health, a study found.

Failing to do the housework properly can expose people to cancer-causing chemicals, which are widespread in dust.

Harmful phthalates – typically found in everyday items such as food packaging, hair spray, cosmetics and soaps – have been linked to health problems ranging from asthma and ADHD to early menopause.

Chemicals from these products are released into the air and get into dust, which can settle on household items or the floor, according to researchers from George Washington University.

The scientists found 45 potentially-toxic chemicals that are used in many consumer and household products, such as vinyl flooring.

The team also found ten harmful chemicals in 90 per cent of the dust samples they analysed, including the known cancer-causing agent TDCIPP. 

People may breathe in small particles of dust or absorb them via their skin.

Infants and young children are particularly at risk because they crawl, play on dusty floors and put their hands in their mouths, the scientists warned.