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FAQs

What is Dustsafe Aotearoa

Dustsafe Aotearoa is a community science initiative that offers testing of household vacuum dust samples for trace metals and metalloids.

After sending your vacuum dust to Dustsafe Aotearoa you will receive a formal report explaining the concentrations of eight trace metals in your dust: arsenic (As); cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn) along with information on regionally relevant comparative guidelines and advice on how to reduce your exposure risk.

Dustsafe Aotearoa is an analogue project connected to a global household dust testing programme which tests dust in Australia (Macquarie University), England (Northumbria University) and America (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis). The international programme has collaborated with researchers from China, Greece, Ghana, Mexico, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Nigeria. You can view the results from these collaborative efforts on our MapMyEnvironment global map

How much dust should I send?

Once you complete the Dustsafe Aotearoa registration survey you will be emailed instructions on how to collect your sample and where to post it.

We ask that you fill a plastic resealable bag (sandwich bag or similar) with dust directly from your vacuum cleaner. You can also send the entire vacuum bag if that is easier. Please include everything that is in your vacuum cleaner. Don’t worry about crumbs, strands of hair, or lego! These will be sieved out of your dust sample in our lab, but you may lose precious dust in trying to remove them!

Once we receive and sieve your sample, we analyse only the fine fraction (less than 250 microns). We need a full bag of dust to be able to extract enough fine fraction dust for analysis. The more dust, the better!

How do I get involved?

Participating in DustSafe Aotearoa is easy!

Simply complete the registration survey on our homepage to get started. Once the survey is complete you will be emailed a unique sample ID number and instructions on how to collect your samples and where to post them. Can’t see the email? Try checking your junk folder, if you can’t find it there feel free to send us an email asking for help!

 
What is the turnaround time for testing?

Dustsafe Aotearoa is a one year, fixed term project, and samples are processed in batches. We strive to provide a turnaround time of maximum 12 weeks for our participants. However, we can often be busy with other academic duties such as teaching, research, field visits and conferences. If you have previously submitted samples and are concerned that you have not yet received your results, please contact us.

How do I get my results?

The results of your vacuum dust analysis will be emailed to you. Keep an eye on your junk inbox as sometimes the email can be found there. 

Are my results normal?

Check out our global map at Map My Environment. This mapping tool allows you to zoom to your area and compare dust trace element concentrations. The data you see is from Dustsafe Aotearoa (and the international VegeSafe and DustSafe programmes) with points double-jittered to protect participant privacy. If there isn’t any data in your area, then be the first and send us a sample! 

Your vacuum dust report will also contain regionally relevant guidelines to assist with interpreting your results.

Do you test for other contaminants?

We currently test for a suite of trace metals (heavy metals) in soil and vacuum dust. Your results will include data on concentrations of the following trace metals: arsenic (As); cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn).

There may be other contaminants in your home/garden environment that are not assessed by our program, such as asbestos and pesticides. Unfortunately, we do not have the facilities to offer this testing. An environmental consultant will be able to assist you with such tests.

Some samples may be analysed for other contaminants in the future including PFAS, microplastics and pollen.

I live nearby, can I drop off my samples?

Due to uncertainties and frequent changes involved in the COVID-19 situation we ask that all participants mail their samples to us. We apologise for any inconvenience.