In this harmattan season, these are the hidden dangers of dust you must know

In one side of the world, they say “winter is here”. Over in these parts of Nigeria and West Africa, the people will tell you “harmattan is here.” And with the harmattan comes an almighty haze comprising a chilly weather and the bit everyone hates – dust. Now there’s a very good reason why you should take care of yourself in this harmattan season.

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An antibacterial called triclosan is common in dust and could result in dust-dwelling bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant, researchers report. “There is this conventional wisdom that says everything that’s in dust is dead, but that’s not actually the case. There are things living in there,” said study leader Erica Hartmann, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at Northwestern University in Chicago.

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The researchers analyzed dust samples from 42 athletic facilities in the Pacific Northwest region. In dust with higher concentrations of triclosan, bacteria were more likely to have genetic changes indicating antibiotic resistance. “Those genes do not code for resistance to triclosan,” Hartmann explained in a university news release. “They code for resistance to medically relevant antibiotic drugs.”

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Triclosan was widely used in antibacterial hand soaps and cleaning solutions until 2017, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned such uses due to concerns about a number of dangerous side effects, including hormone system disruption.