Vacuums and dust mites

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 12th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Ten percent of Americans are allergic to dust mites. If you’re part of that group, your home sweet home may feel more like a house of horrors.

Dead mites and droppings accumulate in carpets, bedding and other places where the microscopic creatures live. This debris can trigger sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes, and in people with asthma, bring on an attack.

So you might consider buying a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner, one that captures even the smallest particles. That’s got to do a better job of protecting your health than a standard machine, right?

Not necessarily. A study published in a recent issue of the journal “Allergy” showed there’s a significant amount of mite exposure when people operate vacuums and empty them, and it’s equally bad with either type of machine.

British researchers compared five brand-new high-efficiency vacuums with a previously used standard model.

They measured mite exposure using devices called nasal air samplers, which trap airborne particles as they’re inhaled.

Previous research on the same machines indicated that leaks weren’t causing the mite exposure.

Instead, the researchers theorized that vacuuming stirs up carpet dust, and some of it becomes airborne rather than being drawn into the machine.

So if you’re a wee bit sensitive to wee mites, this study offers two important lessons. Sometimes the cure is almost as bad as the problem. And now you have a great argument for making someone else do all the vacuuming.