March 24, 2019
3 min read

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in household dust may promote development of fat cells

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NEW ORLEANS — The presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in household dust promoted the development of fat cells in a cell model, researchers reported at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting.

Christopher D. Kassotis

“This is some of the first research investigating links between exposure to chemical mixtures present in the indoor environment and metabolic health of children living in those homes,” Christopher D. Kassotis, PhD, postdoctoral research associate at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, said in a press release.

This research group previously demonstrated that chemical exposure can promote accumulation of triglycerides and may be associated with weight and adiposity in humans. Kassotis and colleagues recently published data in Science of the Total Environment that looked at the ability of indoor house dust extracts to promote adipogenesis in vitro, collected from 137 adults living in central North Carolina. The majority of these house dust extracts promoted triglyceride accumulation and pre-adipocyte proliferation, and correlated with the health of people living in those homes.

“Interestingly, the greater the extent that the dust was able to promote fat cell development, the greater the BMI of the people living in those homes. We demonstrated a relationship between the chemicals present in the indoor environment and metabolic health,” Kassotis said during a press conference.

The new study was performed to investigate the role of chemical mixtures isolated from indoor household dust in the metabolic health of children, he said.

In total, 194 house dust samples collected from households in central North Carolina from 2014 to 2016 were analyzed. About 200 children were living in those homes. Kassotis and colleagues extracted chemicals from the dust in the lab, then tested the ability of the extracts to promote fat cell development in a cell model.

Very low concentrations of dust extracts promoted precursor fat cell proliferation and fat cell development.
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Very low concentrations of dust extracts promoted precursor fat cell proliferation and fat cell development, Kassotis reported here.

“We found that two-thirds of dust extracts were able to promote fat cell development and half promote precursor fat cell proliferation at 100 µg, or approximately 1,000 times lower levels than what children consume on a daily basis,” Kassotis said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, children are estimated to consume 60 mg to 100 mg of dust each day.

The researchers then measured up to 111 different chemicals in the dust to examine the relationship between their concentrations and the extent of fat cell development. Approximately 70 of the chemicals had a significant positive relationship with the development of dust-induced fat cells, and approximately 40 were linked to precursor fat cell proliferation.


“This suggests that mixtures of chemicals occurring in the indoor environment might be driving these effects,” Kassotis said in the press release.

The researchers also looked at two mechanisms known to affect fat cell development. Thyroid receptor hormone-beta was positively correlated with the extent of dust-induced triglyceride accumulation, while peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-gamma activation was not correlated with fat cell development, showing the potential “contributory role” of thyroid receptor hormone-beta, he said during the press conference.

When looking at chemicals driving these effects, the researchers found that 68 of 111 chemicals were positively correlated with the extent of fat cell development via lipid accumulation of the cells and 13 were positively correlated with the proliferation of cells.

“Lots of contaminants with a small amount of effect on fat cell development resulted in the effects that we’re measuring,” Kassotis said during the press conference.

Several chemicals were significantly elevated in the dust of homes of children who were overweight or obese, according to the researchers.

Research in this area will continue, Kassotis said. – by Katie Kalvaitis


Kassotis C, et al. MON-030: Non-target assessment of contributory chemicals and in vitro assessment of molecular mechanisms of indoor house dust extract-induced adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 cells. Presented at: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting; March 23-26, 2019; New Orleans.

Kassotis CD, et al. Sci Total Environ. 2019;doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.273.

Disclosure: Kassotis reports no relevant financial disclosures.