It’s bad news for those who hate cleaning – dust can make you fat, shocking new research suggests.
Just minuscule amounts of the annoying, tiny specks that collect in dirty homes can trigger a bulging waistline.
Full of gender-bending chemicals responsible for weight gain, dust can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.
This causes fat cells to accumulate more triglycerides, leaving them full and forcing more to be created, laboratory tests showed.
The findings are surprising, considering the extensive research that shows poor diet and a lack of exercise as fueling obesity.
Those wanting to keep trim should reach for their feather dusters as well as eating and living healthier, Duke University researchers implied.
Study author Dr Heather Stapleton said: ‘This suggests that the mixture of these chemicals in house dust is promoting the accumulation of triglycerides and fat cells.
‘Amounts of dust as low as 3 micrograms – well below the mass of dust that children are exposed to daily – caused measurable effects.’
What’s in dust?
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are synthetic or naturally occurring compounds that can interfere with or mimic the body’s hormones.
EDCs – such as flame retardants, phthalates and bisphenol-A – are known for their potential effects on reproductive, neurological and immune functions.
But animal studies also suggest early life exposure to some can cause weight gain later in life, and are dubbed ‘obesogens’.
Some manufacturers have reduced the use of EDCs in products, but many are still common in consumer goods.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that children consume 50 milligrams of house dust each day.
How was the study carried out?
To test their effects on weight gain in children, the researchers collected samples of indoor dust from 11 homes in North Carolina.
Extracts of dust were then placed alongside a pre-adipocyte mouse cell model known as 3T3-L1.
Scientists have long used this type of cell to test a range of compounds for their potential effects on the accumulation of triglycerides.
Seven of the samples triggered the pre-adipocytes to develop into mature fat cells, the researchers found.
But once this process happens, it can never be reversed, even if someone loses vast amounts of weight.
And once they reach a certain size, new fat cells are created.
What did they find?
Extracts from nine samples spurred the cells to divide, creating a larger pool of precursor fat cells.
Only one dust sample had no effect, according to the results published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Among the 44 individual common house dust contaminants tested in this model, pyraclostrobin had the strongest fat-producing effects.
The flame-retardant TBPDP, and DBP, a commonly used plasticizer, had similar impacts, researchers said.