Dust is a general name for minute solid particles with diameters less than 500 micrometers. Dust occurs in the atmosphere from various sources such as soil dust lifted up by wind, volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in homes, offices, and other human environments consists of human skin cells, plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibers, paper fibers, minerals from outdoor soil, and many other materials which may be found in the local environment.
The quantity and composition of house dust varies greatly with seasonal and environmental factors such as the surroundings, exchange of outside air, age of the house, building materials and their condition, and the quantity of furniture and carpets, as well as their state of preservation. It varies further with ventilation and heating systems, cleaning habits, activities of the occupants or users of a room, etc. House dust consists of inorganic and organic matter, yet the relative proportions of these components may vary considerably. "House dust" from kindergartens often consists almost completely of inorganic materials such as sand, loam, and clay from sand pits. On the other hand, house dust from residences of animal owners with worn out carpets may consist nearly completely of organic material. The proportion of organic matter in 318 house dust samples was found to vary between <5% and >95% (Butte and Walker, 1994). Fergusson et al. (1986) reported the organic content of house dust from 11 homes in Christchurch, New Zealand, to be within the range from 25.7% to 56.5%. Floor dust from seven Danish offices had a mean organic fraction of 33% (Mølhave et al., 2000).
According to the German Environmental Survey, approximately 6 mg/m²/day of house dust is formed in private households, depending primarily on the amount of time spent at home. Nearly 1000 dust particles per square centimeter settle on domestic surfaces every hour. Some dust consists of human skin; it is estimated that the entire outer layer of skin is shed every day or two at a rate of 7 million skin flakes per minute, which corresponds to a mass emission rate of about 20 mg/minute. "Dust bunnies" are little clumps of fluff that form when sufficient dust accumulates.
House dust mites are on all surfaces and even suspended in air. Dust mites feed on minute particles of organic matter, the main constituent of house dust. They excrete enzymes to digest dust particles; these enzymes and their feces, in turn, become part of house dust and can provoke allergic reactions in humans. Dust mites flourish in the fibres of bedding, furniture, and carpets.
On the other hand the hygiene hypothesis suggests that the modern obsession with cleanliness may be counterproductive; that it may in fact encourage the development of health conditions including hay fever and asthma.
Coal dust is responsible for the lung disease known as Pneumoconiosis, including black lung disease, which occurs among coal miners. This danger has resulted in a number of laws (only some being passed) regulating environmental standards for working conditions.
The particles that make up house dust can easily become airborne, so care must be exercised when removing dust, as the activity intended to sanitize or remove dust may make it airborne. The device being used traps the dust; however, some may become airborne and come to settle in the cleaner's lungs, thus making the activity somewhat hazardous. Another way to repel dust is with some kind of electrical charge .
Dust samples returned from outer space could provide information about conditions in the early solar system. Several spacecraft have been launched in an attempt to gather samples of dust and other materials. Among these was Stardust, which flew past Comet Wild 2 in 2004 and returned a capsule of the comet's remains to Earth in January 2006. The Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft is currently on a mission to collect samples of dust from the surface of an asteroid.
Astronomers Take Revealing Peek At Star Factory; Observations Eventually Expected Lead To Increased Understanding Of Interstellar Dust And Gas.
Jan 11, 2005; Byline: Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Jan. 11 (AScribe Newswire) -- Using NASA's orbiting Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic...
HACing out a dusty light source. (hydrogenated amorphous carbon and the spectra of interstellar dust clouds)
Oct 06, 1990; HACing out a dusty light source Studying the spectra of a tough compound that coats some electrodes and the fuel pellets used in...