Bacteria in Household Dust May Trigger Asthma Symptoms
New research shows that bacteria lurking in household dust produce chemicals that may trigger asthma, and related symptoms such as wheezing. These chemicals, called endotoxins, were linked to increased respiratory problems in adults.
Schmalfeldt: New research shows that bacteria lurking in household dust produce chemicals that may trigger asthma, and related symptoms such as wheezing. These chemicals, called endotoxins, were linked to increased respiratory problems in adults. The study, supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, found that the relationship between endotoxin levels and asthma was strongest in dust found on bedroom floors and bedding. Doctor Darryl Zeldin, a Senior Investigator at the NIEHS, explains why this is the case.
Zeldin: There are two issues relating to exposure. One is levels, concentrations in settled dust. The other one is how long people spend in rooms or in locations where those exposures exist. So for example, in the bedroom we know people spend a significant amount of time there, usually seven or eight hours a day, and the children even more time.
Schmalfeldt: So, can people suffering from asthma reduce endotoxin levels by being better housekeepers? Dr. Zeldin doesn't think so.
Zeldin: There is an association between levels of endotoxins and certain types of factors in the environment, things such as where the house is, what region of the country the house is located in, and so forth. But, you know, we really haven't shown — at least in our study — by cleaning more, dusting more, vacuuming more you can actually reduce endotoxin levels.
Schmalfeldt: Scientists have known since the 1960s that house dust contains endotoxin, but it has only been in the last five years that they began to understand the impact of household endotoxin on human health. Knowing what triggers asthma, whether it's endotoxins or something else, may help doctors better prevent or treat symptoms. More info is available online at www.niehs.nih.gov/airborne. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Darryl Zeldin
Topic: Endotoxins, Asthma