By Ted Ranosa, Tech Times | August 31, 9:33 AM
A new study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder and North Carolina State University attempts to shed light on the nature of microbes found in dust particles and how they can be used to reveal information on homeowners as well as others that may inhabit their homes with them.
(Photo : NIAID | Flickr)
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and North Carolina State University found that the buildup of dust in homes could be used to reveal certain information about their inhabitants such as their gender, the geographic location of their home and even the type of pets they keep.
In a study featured in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists at CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department discovered that the diversity of microbes found in dust particles contain various clues regarding the people who might live in a certain home.
"Every day, we're surrounded by a vast array of organisms in our homes, most of which we can't see," CU-Boulder microbial ecologist Dr. Noah Fierer said. "We live in a microbial zoo, and this study was an attempt to catalog that diversity."
Fierer and his colleagues examined around 1,200 American homes with the help of volunteers from the citizen science project called Wild Life of Our Homes. They collected outdoor and indoor samples of dust from each of the sites they visited.
The average home in the United States contains over 5,000 different bacterial species and around 2,000 fungal species. The researchers found that communities of fungi often reveal more about the geographical location of home, while communities of bacterial reveal information about the inhabitants' identity.
Fierer explained that geography is the most ideal predictor of fungal communities in homes. This is because most species of fungi enter homes through leaves and soil that get blown in from outdoors. Upper Midwest homes, Fierer said, will tend to have distinct fungi species compared to homes found in the Southeast.
Bacterial communities, on the other hand, are more suited for revealing information on the inhabitants of homes the researchers examined. Fierer and his team could determine if homes had pets such as dogs or cats, as well as the inhabitants' gender ration through the samples of dust they collected.
The researchers pointed out that those homes with only male residents will often have a different bacterial makeup compared to those with both female and male inhabitants.
CU-Boulder graduate researcher and lead author of the study Albert Barbarán said that one of the important findings is that individuals should consider a change of address and the pets they live with if they wish to change what they breathe in their homes.
The Dangers of House Dust
While the researchers said that most of the organisms they encountered in their investigation were harmless and some even beneficial, the dust particles that they inhabit still pose imminent health risks to people.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), these tiny particles can trigger an allergic reaction in people who have developed sensitivity to dust. Symptoms associated with dust allergy include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.
To help reduce exposure to dust particles, homeowners should consider regularly cleaning homes using vacuums fitted with a high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter. They can also wear masks with an N95 filter during vacuuming, dusting or sweeping.
When choosing the flooring for homes, consider opting for wood flooring instead wall-to-wall carpets when possible.
Prevent dust buildup on beds by regularly washing linens using hot water. Mite-proof pillow and mattress cases can also help deter dust particles from accumulating.
Pets should also be kept out of an allergic person's bedroom at all times.
All unrefrigerated food should also be kept covered. Food waste should also be properly disposed in garbage cans with tight seals.