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Is House Dust Mostly Dead Skin?

dust, skin, shedding
Dust is not mostly human skin, but does consist of some pretty gross stuff. (Image credit: <a href='http://shutterstock.com'>Shutterstock</a>)

This is one of those “Eww! Gross!” factoids that sound very scientific, but isn’t really true. Sometimes a specific percentage of dust is said to be skin, usually about 70 or 80 percent, but unless you’re a molting bird or reptile (or you work in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory), very little of your environment is composed of dead body parts.

There are far more common sources of dust pollutants, including animal dander, sand, insect waste, flour (in the kitchen), and of course lots of good, old-fashioned dirt.

Every time we open a window or a door, we stir up and move around tiny, airborne particles that eventually settle around the house. Humans do shed dead skin, but most of it is carried away by water when we shave or bathe, ending up not on our floors but in our sewers. Now don’t you feel better?

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Benjamin Radford
Benjamin Radford is the Bad Science columnist for Live Science. He covers pseudoscience, psychology, urban legends and the science behind "unexplained" or mysterious phenomenon. Ben has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in psychology. He is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and has written, edited or contributed to more than 20 books, including "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries," "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore" and “Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits,” out in fall 2017. His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.