Dust is a commonly occurring substance in our homes and offices. It is made up mainly of soil, sand or rock particles, but can sometimes contain pollen, microscopic organisms, plant material and skin flakes from animals.

Depending on the size and composition of the particles, dust can affect your health in different ways. Other factors that could change the effects are the concentration of the particles and how long the person is exposed to the dust. Some of the effects of dust on your health include:

Allergies and infections

Dust that contains pollen, dust mites and skin flakes is likely to cause allergies. Some people are allergic to certain woods, pollen and pet hair found in dust, which can cause difficulty in breathing, itchy red eyes, sneezing and coughing.

Certain elements in dust such as mold spores and invisible micro-organisms can cause bacterial and fungal infections in the respiratory system. Some of these infections are serious and require expensive treatment to put down.

Lung scarring and fibrosis

Sometimes, dust particles especially in older houses may contain harmful substances such as asbestos and particles of quartz (crystalline silica) which may cause scarring in your lungs. This is a dangerous disease that can adversely affect your livelihood in that it affects your ability to perform certain activities.

Coal dust can also be a part of dust and could cause pulmonary diseases such as coal workers pneumoconiosis and chronic obtuse pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema. This happens mainly in places around chemical plants and other larger industries.

Cancer

Cancer cases have been on the rise in recent years as more toxic substances permeate our environment. Particles of asbestos, quartz and chromates can become embedded in the dust and when inhaled over time, can cause cancer in your throat, nasal passages and even lungs.

Irritation of the membranes

Dust mites, bacteria and chemical particles like those found in common household products can irritate the membranes of your respiratory tract and trigger asthma. Exposure to dust over long periods of time especially during cleaning or windy days can increase the probability of an attack. In some cases, inhaling dust can cause certain conditions such as atopic dermatitis and eczema to flare up, leaving you uncomfortable and needing medical intervention.

Interfering with brain development

Certain chemical compounds found in common household products can slow down the development of the brain in children. Chemicals that contain Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used in the home to reduce the flammability of common household furniture, carpeting and textiles. They have the potential to lead to toxicity which disrupts brain development by stifling certain hormones that affect the brain.

Other more dangerous chemicals also have the potential to cause even more deadly systemic conditions such as blood poisoning. This can be caused by lead, manganese, cadmium and zinc particles in dust.

You cannot entirely get rid of dust, but you can take certain measures to ensure that you minimize the effects on yourself. Getting a HEPA air filtration system in your house, for instance, is a good place to start.