Assessment of human exposure to indoor organic contaminants via dust ingestion in Pakistan


A. Covaci
Toxicological Centre
University of Antwerp
Universiteitsplein 1
2610 Wilrijk
Tel.: +32-3-265-2498
Fax: +32-3-265-2722


Abstract  Ingestion of indoor dust has been acknowledged as an important route of exposure to organic contaminants (OCs). We investigated the presence of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), novel brominated flame retardants (NBFRs), organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) in indoor floor dust from rural homes (N = 31) and mosques (N = 12) in Gujrat, Pakistan. Low concentrations were observed for most contaminants. OPFRs were the principle contaminants, with tri-(2-butoxyethyl)-phosphate (TBEP) and tri-phenyl-phosphate (TPP) having medians of 66 and 109 ng/g, respectively. PBDEs were only minor constituents in the investigated samples, with BDE 209 (median 40 ng/g) being the most important congener. Levels and profile of ∑PBDEs, ∑NBFRs, ∑HCHs, ∑DDTs, and ∑PCBs revealed no difference (< 0.05) between samples of dust from homes and mosques, indicating similar emission sources. Exposure scenarios using 5th percentile, median, mean, and 95th percentile levels were estimated for both adult and toddlers. Typical high-end, using median levels and high dust ingestion, exposure for adults were 0.02, 0.02, 0.03, <0.01, and 0.65 ng/kg bw/day and for toddlers 0.39, 0.45, 0.69, 0.01, and 15.2 ng/kg bw/day for ∑PBDEs, ∑NBFRs, ∑OCPs, ∑PCBs, and ∑OPFRs, respectively. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to document the presence of indoor OCs in Pakistani dust.

Practical Implications

This is the first report on the analysis of various contaminants in indoor dust from Pakistan. Some of these chemicals are currently being used in different consumer products. The study will help to further an understanding of the levels of different organic contaminants (OCs) in Pakistani indoor environments and will enlighten the generally ignored area of environmental pollution in Pakistan. Furthermore, studies based on animal models have shown that some of the analyzed chemicals can cause different types of chronic toxicities. However, our results showed that the levels of estimated exposure via dust ingestion for all chemicals were several orders of magnitude lower than their reference dose (RfD) values or than those reported in studies from Belgium, China, Singapore, and the UK (Ali et al., 2011a; Harrad et al., 2008; Tan et al., 2007a,b; Van den Eede et al., 2011a; Wang et al., 2010).