|Abstract: ||Despite increasing concern about the presence of heavy metals, pesticides and other toxins in indoor environments, very little is known about the physical and chemical composition of ordinary household dust. This study represents the first systematic investigation of the mineralogical composition of indoor dust in residential housing in Canada.
Specimens of dust were obtained from homes in six geographically separate cities in the Province of Ontario: two located on the metamorphic and igneous rocks of the Precambrian Canadian Shield (Thunder Bay and Sudbury), the other four located on Palaeozoic limestone and shale dominated bedrock (Barrie, Burlington, Cambridge, and Hamilton). Forty samples of household vacuum dust were obtained. The coarse fraction (80 – 300 µm) of this dust was subjected to flotation (using water) to separate the organic components (e.g. insect fragments, dander), natural and synthetic materials (e.g. fibres, plastics) from the mineral residue. The mineral fraction was then analyzed using quantitative point counting, polarizing light microscopy, powder X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy methods.
Despite the great distances between the sampling localities and the distinct differences in bedrock geology, the mineral fraction of dust from all six cities is remarkably similar and dominated by quartz and feldspar, followed by lithic fragments, calcite, and amphibole. Some evidence of the influence of local geology can nevertheless be found. For example, a relatively higher proportion of sulphide minerals is observed in the two cities on the Canadian Shield where these minerals are clearly more abundant in the bedrock. Specimens from Sudbury, Canada’s largest mining centre located atop a nickel-sulphide mineral deposit, showed the highest sulphide contents. Quartz is the dominant mineral in all cities. All quartz grains have internal strain features and fluid inclusions that are indicative of a metamorphic-igneous provenance.
In all cities, sand is used on the streets as an abrasive for traction during the icy winter season. This sand is obtained in all cases from local glaciofluvial deposits that were ultimately derived principally from the rocks of the Canadian Shield in the last Pleistocene glaciations that affected all of Ontario. Thus, tracking in sand is the most plausible mechanism by which quartz was introduced into these homes since sampling was done, in all cases, in the winter season.
The results indicate that glacial deposits dominate the mineral composition of indoor dust in Ontario cities and that nature of the bedrock immediately underlying the sampling sites is relatively of minor importance.|