Indoor dust pollution has gained public attention as people are spending more time indoors. Long term exposure to heavy metal contaminated indoor dust brings adverse health effect to humans, especially children, due to their body development and behaviour. Health risk assessment helps to predict the magnitude of the risk posed on children’s health, hence alerting governments, parents and public awareness towards the danger of heavy metals accumulation in indoor dust.
Indoor dust pollution is becoming a greater concern than outdoor dust pollution as humans spend up to 90% of their time in indoors (e.g. homes, offices, schools). Indoor dust is the mixture of fine particles, human hairs, human skin cells and pollutants (e.g. heavy metals, pesticides, polychlorobiphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) related with outdoor sources namely vehicle emission, industrial discharges and infiltration through wind dispersion and footprints. Heavy metals in indoor dust have obtained attention due to high toxicity and non-degradable properties which can cause harmful health effects to humans.
The heavy metals in indoor dust can enter the human body through ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact pathways. Children are prone to contact with heavy metals due to their behaviour (e.g. crawling, hand-to-mouth activities) and body development (e.g. children inhale more polluted air into the lungs because of their high respiratory rate). Excessive heavy metals (e.g. lead, cadmium, copper, zinc) accumulation in the body can cause damage to nervous system, internal organs (e.g. brain, liver, kidney, lungs, heart) and the most serious consequence, death. Therefore, health risk assessment (HRA) has been developed to estimate human health risk for long term heavy metal exposure.
In a recent paper, published in Reviews on Environmental Health, environmental scientists discuss the HRA of heavy metals in indoor dust and the health risk implications for children living in urban areas. Children living in areas with heavy traffic and industrial activities have a higher risk of having cancer and non-cancer effects compared to children living in rural areas. The review also found high heavy metals concentrations in indoor dust facing heavy traffic and industrial activities areas.
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