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Am J Public Health. 2014 Jul;104(7):1320-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301835. Epub 2014 May 15.

Persistent organic pollutants in dust from older homes: learning from lead.

Author information

Todd P. Whitehead, Catherine Metayer, Robert B. Gunier, Stephen M. Rappaport, and Patricia A. Buffler are with the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. Mary H. Ward, Joanne S. Colt, and Nicole C. Deziel are with the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.



We aimed to (1) evaluate the relation between home age and concentrations of multiple chemical contaminants in settled dust and (2) discuss the feasibility of using lead hazard controls to reduce children's exposure to persistent organic pollutants.


As part of the California Childhood Leukemia Study, from 2001 to 2007, we used a high-volume small surface sampler and household vacuum cleaners to collect dust samples from 583 homes and analyzed the samples for 94 chemicals with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. We evaluated relations between chemical concentrations in dust and home age with Spearman rank correlation coefficients.


Dust concentrations of lead, polychlorinated biphenyls, organochlorine insecticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were correlated with home age (ρ > 0.2; P < .001), whereas concentrations of pyrethroid insecticides and polybrominated diphenyl ethers were not.


Dust in older homes contains higher levels of multiple, persistent chemicals than does dust in newer homes. Further development of strategies to reduce chemical exposures for children living in older homes is warranted.

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