DUST testing at home and work – HEAVY METALS

Dust allows nasty chemicals to bind to it. Adults, but more particularly children, are at risk of dangerous chemical exposure if dust in the home or workplace becomes contaminated with heavy metals. There are many ways this happens.

This article provides details for a simple, inexpensive home or workplace test from one of the highest quality Environmental Analysis Laboratories in Australia (EAL) and outlines evidence of heavy metal dust contamination, the importance of getting tested and what to do about it.

TEST DESCRIPTION: There are several evidence-based methods for collecting a dust sample at home or work. Here we present two well-established methods. You can choose based on the location and the amount of the dust you want to have analysed. The downloadable order forms below provide full details.

Toxtest is collaborating with EAL to bring to the public a means to test DUST in the home or at work for dangerous heavy metals. Most importantly we are presenting the results using creative visualisation techniques that enable you to get the most from the results. Cost is kept to a minimum so that the test is affordable for individuals and families.

DUST: Dust is tricky. It finds its way into our bodies in multiple ways. We can breathe it, we can ingest it, and we can get it on our skin. Heavy metals attached to dust have means to enter our bodies.

Young children are most susceptible to ingestion because of their constant hand-to-mouth activities while playing on the floor. Toddlers can ingest small amounts of dust and dirt hundreds of times during the day.

High levels of metals and metalloids can be associated with ore bodies. Soils in mining areas may contain elevated levels of these materials due to natural mineralisation. Some urban areas may be affected by various elements including lead, copper, zinc, cadmium and arsenic from the ore bodies, as well as activities associated with historical build up, mining, smelting and metallurgical industries.

Public information about preventing exposure to mineralised or contaminated soil and subsequent dust is an essential component of public health programs to minimise community exposure to these contaminants.

Download order Form & Instructions – Vacuum Method
Download order Form & Instructions – Wipe Method

THE BOTTOM LINE: The primary purpose of this test is to reveal possible heavy metal contamination of DUST that you are exposed to. Exposure to contaminated dust can happen around the home, school, play area or workplace. More than half of the Metals and Minerals we test for are known to be toxic, dangerous, carcinogenic or have unknown effects on humans.

Lets take LEAD as a case example. You have been tired for no apparent reason for some time. A hair, blood or urine test indicate you have higher than normal or at least detectable levels of lead in your body. (The only acceptable body lead level result is ZERO). You suspect dust may be a exposure source. (You already ruled out water)

As can be seen from the Literature below, trying to assess and exactly quantify the amount of potential exposure and the exact risk of subsequent adverse health effects to toxic chemicals in DUST is complex. This is exacerbated by very few guidelines and reference values to go on.

So to get the most from this test and to then get the most meaning from the results and clearest indications of subsequent required action – here is a plan

1/ Determine WHO is at risk (i.e. children, mothers, employees, yourself etc)

2/ Determine WHERE they interact with their environment most

3/ Determine HOW best to collect the dust sample from this environment (wipe or Vacuum method)

4/ Determine how best to INTERPRET the results – we will post updated information here to help with this i.e. how much is too much and which chemicals pose the greatest source of harm. We are also available for further help via phone and email if needed.

Current results use well established soil based guidelines. We don’t think these give the best view of results for DUST.

Latest background and reference values are currently being investigated and your results will be updated as this information comes in. No need to redo the test.

5/ Investigate the SOURCE of any detected toxic metals

6/ STRATEGY to deal with discovered sources of heavy metal exposure

It is impossible to prevent complete exposure to dust. However, if you are exposed to CONTAMINATED dust, you can and must do something about it.


All test fees are paid directly to Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL) at Southern Cross University, Australia with details on order form below

Download order Form & Instructions – Vacuum Method
Download order Form & Instructions – Wipe Method

Using LEAD as an example…


Sampling house dust has inherent complexities and contraversies.There has been substantial amount of research being done to develop and characterize house dust sampling methods. Scientists are still working on the definition of house dust andthe methods to measure it. This issue is complicated by the fact that results from one house dust sampling method may not be directly comparable to results from others.

Lead Concentration by Particle Size

“Most studies that have examined lead in house dust by particle size suggest that lead concentrations in dust increase as particle size decreases.”

Sources of Lead in Dust
Soil and area of exposed soil;
House age, house material, and presence of deteriorated or damaged paint;
Distance from roads, road type, and street dust;
Renovation, remodeling, and abatement;
Distance from commercial garages and smelting/ mining operations;
Dustfall rates and suspended particles indoors;
Carpet wear and presence of a fireplace;
Certain parental occupations and hobbies.

Sampling Strategies
While the sampling method (Wipe or Vacuum for instance) specifies how to collect a sample of dust from a surface, a sampling strategy specifies the process of sampling that includes the following:

Which surfaces and substrates should be sampled,
When and how sampling should take place, and
Whether a mixed sample should be created

Before deciding on a sampling strategy, it is important to determine the goals to be achieved. A specific goal of a sampling strategy may be to assess children’s lead dust exposure in their daily environments.

“Almost all house dust contains measurable LEAD concentration levels and most residential surfaces, such as floors and windowsills, contain house dust. The actual lead concentration in a sample of house dust depends on the amount of nonlead dust that is mixed with lead-containing dust. Common sources of lead-containing dust are deteriorated lead-based paint and lead-contaminated soil.

The lead concentration, sometimes called a mass concentration, is usually expressed as micrograms of lead per gram of dust (μg/ g) or the equivalent expression, parts per million lead by weight (ppm). The amount of dust on a surface can be expressed as grams of dust per unit area and is usually called dust loading (g/ m2 or g/ ft2).

The lead concentration, multiplied by the dust loading on a surface, gives a lead loading value and is commonly expressed as micrograms of lead per unit area (μg/ m2 or μg/ ft2).2 The dust loading and lead loading measurements are both area concentrations, that is,the concentration of dust or lead per unit area.”

Dust particle size

“Vacuum cleaners pick up hair, fuzz, pieces of bugs, food, small rocks and glass, and small particles of dust, which often settle to the bottom of the bag. A significant portion of house dust consists of fine particles. Que Hee et al. (1985) found 76 percent of the total dust and 77 percent of the lead in particle sizes less than 149 micrometers (μm).

Budd et al. (1990) showed that about 50 percent of the dust by weight from seven homes passed through a 150 μm sieve.
Fine dust may be the most biologically significant for the hand-to-mouth route of childhood lead poisoning (Spittler, 1993). There are several reasons for this conclusion. First, studies suggest that fine dust particles stick to a child’s hands more readily than do other components of dust. Second, most research shows that lead is generally more concentrated in the fine fraction of dust.

Finally, lead absorption into the body is inversely related to particle size. Thus, the smaller the dust particle, the more efficiently it is absorbed into the body.”

“Duggan (1985) looked at playground dust (not house dust) on the hands of school children and found that 90 to 98 percent of the particles were less than 10 μm, and the largest particle diameters were 100 to 180 μm.”

In the Wipe Method surfaces can be wiped back and forth twice in each direction, and the procedure repeated after folding the towelette in half. (Farfel’s Method)



see SAMPLING HOUSE DUST FOR LEAD Basic Concepts and Literature Review for a detailed discussion on sampling LEAD levesl in house dust.

Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing
This is a large PDF (35mb)
or See parts on the US website

Demolition Sites

Construction Sites
Living near Dirt Roads
Legacy paints or contaminated urban soil around the home
By | 2017-08-25T09:52:45+00:00 August 25th, 2017|Dust|0 Comments

About the Author:

B.Sc. Hons Biochemistry, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia |
Graduate Diploma with distinction Nutrition Medicine, RMIT, Melbourne |

CAREER – clinician, working with groups, health and nutrition, computer programming and developing online health tools using data visualisation that provides a practical human benefit, human potential, mentoring and elder role.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of