One of the most used rooms in the home is your bathroom. You are guaranteed to use it at least once every morning and every night. So, if you’ve started to notice accumulations of toilet paper dust, you’ll want to know if it’s something to be concerned about.
Let’s look into how high levels of exposure to toilet paper dust can affect your health and if you can be exposed to such levels in your own home.
Excessive exposure to toilet paper dust is bad for one’s health. However, domestic exposure levels are unlikely to reach concentrations that would result in negative health effects. Sensitive individuals may suffer irritation from toilet paper dust. Eliminating or reducing production is desirable.
Toilet Paper Dust Can Affect Health
I don’t think that many people think of their bathroom as a dangerous place. It is one of the most frequently used rooms in a home, but it may not be the most innocent room.
Bathrooms can be harmful to your health if you let them. While you are enjoying the peace during your “you time” you could simultaneously be exposed to harmful chemicals and airborne irritants.
Chemical cleaners, mold, and bacteria are probably the first culprits that come to mind, but there are more subtle potential dangers like toilet paper dust.
It is funny how something as innocuous as toilet paper could be one of the overlooked culprits. But toilet paper is produced from wood pulp and made up of fine fibers that break and produce dust every time you tear off a square.
Extensive exposure to this dust can lead to respiratory problems. As you inhale, particles enter through your nose or mouth and, depending on particle size, may make their way to your lungs.
The dust that gets trapped in your nostrils tends to dry out the membrane inside your nose, making your blood vessels more prone to burst with just one sneeze or blow, leading to nose bleeds. Dust that enters your respiratory tract can cause irritation and have you coughing and sneezing.
You may also experience increased mucous production. Normally, your body produces mucous to trap unwanted substances and stop them from entering your lungs. Naturally, your body will produce more mucous to filter out the dust, but this could build up and create phlegm within your lungs and can lead to other serious conditions.
Problematic Toilet Paper Dust Exposure
There have been many studies that have particularly looked at the effect of toilet paper dust exposure on an occupational level. One study found that these individuals were exposed to more than 5mg/m3 of soft tissue dust for prolonged periods (some over 5 years) and adopted negative respiratory side effects.
The level of exposure depends primarily on the dust concentrations and exposure time. Individuals exposed to more than 5mg/m3 of dust within 1 year still showed lung function impairment.
The aerodynamic diameter of the particle does also plays a role in the severity of the negative effects. The smaller the dust particle the more severe and dangerous the respiratory condition can be because it can go further into the respiratory tract.
There are 3 different types of dust, namely, respirable, thoracic, and inhalable.
- Respirable dust is the smallest and most dangerous type. Coming in at less than 10 microns in diameter, this particle is small enough to enter through your nose, past your respiratory tract, and enter your lungs.
- Thoracic dust diameter is less than 25 microns, which doesn’t make it into your lungs, but can reach your bronchi.
- Inhalable particles have a diameter of under 100 microns and can only enter and stay in the nasal passages, trapped by mucous.
You will be exposed to all three types, unfortunately, you cannot control which particle size you inhale.
What Are the Average Domestic Exposure Levels?
There have not been many studies looking at domestic toilet paper dust exposure levels; the focal point for most studies is occupational exposure of paper mill workers or individuals that reside near said mills.
The most likely reason for this is that domestic exposure to dangerous amounts of toilet paper dust is excessively unlikely.
Unless you stock up and hoard toilet paper in your bathroom and go on a ripping rampage or you don’t clean your bathroom often and dust builds up from previous toilet paper usage, you are not in imminent danger from toilet paper dust.
If you are already sensitive to dust, however, any amount of dust present may still be able to trigger irritation in your throat and lungs.
What About the Chemicals in Toilet Paper?
It is not only the mechanical action of toilet paper dust that may cause harm but also the exposure to the chemicals used in toilet paper manufacturing. The most common toxic chemicals used include but are not limited to dioxins, formaldehyde, chlorine, and phthalates which are all used in the bleaching process.
These chemicals can cause skin irritation or even become carcinogenic and can affect one’s lungs, kidneys, livers, and reproductive system. You may also find hints of BPA present in toilet paper that has been made from recycled paper, which causes hormonal disruption.
The harmful effects of these chemicals, however, are not seen immediately but rather over prolonged periods of exposure.
Now, if your toilet paper was going to give you cancer after a few uses, it certainly would not be sold. The danger of these chemicals is very slight and would probably only be an issue if you were exposed to other sources of higher concentrations of these chemicals simultaneously.
This is not to say that some people are not more sensitive to these chemicals nor does it take into account the ideal of zero exposure to chemicals, which is a worthy goal.
Eliminating toilet paper dust, or at least managing the rate at which it is produced, can be done relatively easily.