My son has battled a nasty case of bronchitis for the past couple weeks. He’s always been very sensitive to many things including foods, chemicals, and dust. This recent bout of illness seems to have sensitized him even more. At first I didn’t know what to do. He kept having coughing fits that would end in retching and vomiting. Even his inhaler didn’t seem to help much. I’m incredibly careful about chemical exposures in our home, so chemicals were un unlikely culprit.
I began to notice that he would start a coughing, gagging fit if he got near the computer or if he went into his bedroom. It gradually dawned in me that his dust sensitivity had intensified and that those two places were extra dusty. I ended up having to turn his bedroom upside down to reduce the dust levels. After a more than thorough cleaning, he was finally able to sleep in his room without ending up in the bathroom vomiting from an asthma attack.
I went through this before with his younger brother during a particularly bad year for respiratory illness. My youngest son contracted RSV that year, and it sent him to the hospital with severe asthma on three different occasions. The third ER visit resulted in his admission to the hospital where he stayed for two days, heavily medicated and on oxygen. I learned that year that I would have to keep my house spotless of dust if I wanted my little boy to be able to breathe. It was exhausting, and I’m not looking forward to another whole winter of daily dusting.
Household dust is not just dirt. It’s far more sinister than that. Dust tends to contain particles of all sorts of chemical pollutants brought into the house via shoes, windows, and ventilation. Whatever toxins happen to exist in our neighborhoods are likely to end up in our house dust. In addition, and even more worrisome, is the fact that so many of our household furnishings and appliances leave toxic residues that end up in household dust. We’re hearing a lot about toxic fire-retardant chemicals lately. Most mattresses, furniture, and electronics are impregnated with these chemicals. Nearly 100% of Americans have these chemicals in their bloodstream, and it is discouragingly difficult to find affordable furnishings and appliances that are free of fire retardants.
For now, all we can do is fight the evil dust bunnies. Hopefully the future will be less toxic.
For more information on toxic fire retardants, check out Slow Death by Rubber Duck – The Secret Danger of Everyday Things