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Is dust bad for you?

Updated on November 14, 2023
Written by
Michelle Honeyager
Michelle started writing for HouseFresh in 2023. She is passionate about home topics and has been published in top publications, including CNET, Bankrate, Remodeling Today, Atlanta House & Home and Remodeling Today Triangle.

Dust can cause health problems in susceptible people. It’s most known for aggravating underlying conditions like asthma, bronchitis, COPD or emphysema.  

Not all dust has equal risks, however. Larger particles may irritate the eyes or airways and minor particle dust like PM2.5 or PM10 can get deep into the lungs and even into the bloodstream — causing severe health risks. The most danger comes from dusty industrial settings. 

An air purifier can help remove dust in the home for people who are sensitive to dust.

Dust can cause respiratory complaints like irritated airways and coughing fits. It can even go on to cause wheezing and difficulty breathing. Furthermore, dust can trigger those conditions if you have underlying health conditions related to the lungs, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Dust can rarely even lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke in those who are susceptible, according to the NASA Earth Observatory.  

How much dust is too much (and who is most at risk)? 

Breathing low levels of household or urban dust does not cause health problems for most people.  However, increased dust from pets hanging out in your bedroom, fabrics shedding fibers or blocked vents can impact your ability to sleep. 

If you experience high dust levels, you might show increased health effects. For instance, dust may affect you more if you work in a dusty industrial setting. 

According to the Department of Health, you should consider using dust control and personal protective equipment in a high-dust situation. Even if you’re just kicking up dust with the leaf blower or cleaning out the garage, it might make sense to take precautions if you’re sensitive to dust. 

– Babies and young children

– Anyone 65 years and older 

– People who have pre-existing respiratory illnesses, like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, smokers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

– Anyone who has a heart condition

 If you experience shortness of breath or symptoms mirroring hay fever after you’ve breathed in dust, you may want to consult your doctor.   

Dust VS Asthma 

Dust can cause asthma flare-ups and cause COPD symptoms to be much worse. People with these two conditions may notice wheezing or coughing. They may also have shortness of breath or more increased attacks related to the condition. 

Scientists in Baltimore published evidence that inhaling occupational dust can actually lead to developing COPD. 

The health effects of dust are tied to how large the dust particles are. Whether they are large or small, they can still be a problem, though. Small particles like microscopic solids can get deep into the lungs to cause health problems. Dust may even contain liquid droplets that could reach deep into the airways. 

Larger particles can become a more directly noticeable problem as they irritate the nose, throat and eyes.  

Is all dust bad for you? 

Luckily, not all dust is bad for you. Household dust, in particular, while gross, is not harmful. It contains human skin, microscopic creatures, hair, soil, mold, pollen, dander, smoke, bacteria, ash and dead bugs. Don’t think about it too much since it’s not harmful to most people.  

Other dust can pose massive risks, however. According to the Health and Safety Executive, small particles of sand, wood and asbestos contributed to an estimated 12,000 deaths from lung disease in the UK in 2022. 

More deaths are linked to breathing in particulates that come from sources like car exhaust or wildfire smoke, according to the American Lung Association

Furthermore, NASA concluded that exposure to PM2.5 particles contributed to 2.89 million premature deaths in 2019, either from heart disease, stroke, COPD, lower respiratory infections or lung cancer.      

However, repeated and long-term exposure to high dust levels can harm your health. Working in a dusty environment can pose these risks.  

Even worse, according to OSHA, dust in high enough concentrations can even lead to explosions! These explosions tend to happen in industrial settings and the dust has to be thick enough that you cannot see a 25-watt lightbulb six feet away. 

Grain dust, in particular, can be of concern, as it is highly explosive. Other types of dust that can ignite include wood, synthetic materials, coal/peat, metals and paper, among others. 

At the same time, it may sound absurd and even like something from a comic book; such events can lead to multiple fatalities, severe injuries and lost income. 

Air purifiers VS Dust  

According to the EPA, air purifiers are an excellent way to reduce indoor air pollution. The main point of an air purifier is to remove particles out of the air that might be harmful, such as the particulates that make up dust. 

Air purifiers work to remove dust, pet dander, mold, pollen and more from the air. Home air purifiers tend to work by drawing air into the machine with a fan. The machine then passes the air through filters to remove the contaminants, such as dust particles. The clean air then goes back into the home. 

Below are our top three recommendations. You can also read about our eight best air purifiers for dust.  

We buy every air purifier we review and then send it through our detailed performance tests. The data from our tests helps us determine the best air purifiers on the market that can help remove and prevent dust. 

EverestAirLevoit Core 600SBlueair Blue Pure 211+
AIR CLEANING SPEED ⚡13 minutes15 minutes18 minutes
CADR 👩‍🔬360 CFM (612 m3/h)410 CFM (697 m³/h)350 CFM (595 m3/h)
FILTER TECHNOLOGY 💨3-Stage Filtration (Pre-filter, H13 HEPA and activated carbon)H13 True HEPA filterHEPASilent™ filter
MAX ROOM SIZE 📏558 sq. ft.635 sq. ft.540 sq. ft.
WEIGHT ⚖️20.7 lbs (9.38 kg)6.2 kg5.67 kg
OUR REVIEW 🔍Levoit EverestAir ReviewLevoit Core 600S reviewBlueair Blue Pure 211+ Review
PRICE 💵$189.99$99.99$748.99

Last update on 2024-04-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


In addition to an air purifier, even humidifiers can help combat dust.

Final thoughts

Common dust in the home isn’t harmful to most people. It’s made up of components like dead skin and dead bugs. While gross, the actual harm can come from more industrial or pollutant dust, like worksite dust or car exhaust. These pollutants tend to be in higher concentration and the particles are smaller, so they get deeper into the lungs or even the bloodstream.  

However, dust can cause several health issues, ranging from irritation-related coughing to aggravating pre-existing conditions like asthma or COPD to even heart disease or stroke risk in certain people.  

An air purifier removes various contaminants to help reduce indoor air pollution. A good purifier excels at removing dust from the air to help people sensitive to dust breathe much easier.  


Last update on 2024-04-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

Michelle Honeyager

Michelle started writing for HouseFresh in 2023. She is passionate about home topics and has been published in top publications, including CNET, Bankrate, Remodeling Today, Atlanta House & Home and Remodeling Today Triangle.