Many years ago I read about The Borrowers, tiny people that lived under the floorboards who ‘borrowed’ sufficient to live on from the left overs of the human beings that inhabited the house. They were great stories, and have now been made into a film, stories that captured my imagination. Of course there are a host of things that we share our houses with, from the smallest dust mite to bats, or even rats! But now we are told that we are harbouring dust that can have a profound effect on our bodies chemistry.
New research from the United States has shown that ordinary household dust can carry hormone altering chemicals that prompt body cells to accumulate fat. This is because the dust particles contain endocrine disrupting chemicals. These chemicals can be synthetic or naturally occurring compounds that can interfere with or mimic the body’s hormones.
And where do these chemicals come from? A significant amount of them come from fire retardants. Our sofas, mattresses, carpets and a host of other household items are being treated with chemicals that are having quantifiable effects on our bodies, and not just our bodies let’s not forget, it’s our children’s bodies as well. One of the researchers, Dr Heather Stapelton, was quoted as saying “Amounts of dust as low as 3 micrograms – well below the mass of dust that children are exposed to daily – caused measurable effects” This means that the risk of disruption to metabolic health is likely to be particularly high in children.
The reason all this matters is because endocrine disrupting chemicals are particularly harmful to us when we’re going through phases of intense development. Primarily those periods are pregnancy, early childhood and puberty and interference with our endocrine system at those crucial times can disrupt the crucial hormones that are needed for growth and prompt cells in the body to accumulate fat.
I have long said that the effects of fire retardants are as yet unknown. Common sense tells you that introducing the level of chemicals into our homes that we’re currently experiencing is bound to have an effect on our health. It was one of the main reasons I set up Abaca, and I’m really proud that we are giving people a choice in a market that is anything but transparent.