February 2, 2006

HEPA Vacuums Unlikely to Curb Dust Mite Exposure

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Vacuum cleaners with "high-efficiency particulate-air" filters or HEPA filters are no better than basic vacuum cleaners at reducing an individual's exposure to dust mites in the home, a study hints.

Regular vacuuming with HEPA vacuum cleaners is recommended to allergy sufferers as a way to reduce the amount of airborne allergy-provoking particles that end up concentrated in carpeted floors.

However, a team from the North West Lung Center in Manchester, UK, demonstrated in a recent study that vacuuming with HEPA sweepers actually increase an individual's exposure to particles such as cat allergens.

In their latest study, published in the journal Allergy, Dr. R. B. Gore and colleagues measured exposure to other types of airborne particles, namely dust mite allergens, associated with vacuuming.

They compared nasal air samples collected prior to and during vacuum cleaning in 10 homes using either HEPA or non-HEPA vacuums. They also collected samples when individuals emptied the dust compartments of the vacuums.

The findings show a small increase in dust mite exposure during vacuum cleaning using both types of devices, although exposure was less important than that observed previously with cat allergens. Mite allergen exposure was greater when emptying the machines' dust compartments, according to the authors.

This study suggests that there isn't any significant difference between using a HEPA vacuum cleaner or a non-HEPA model to reduce one's exposure to dust mites.

"High efficiency vacuum cleaners confer no benefits and cannot currently be recommended to allergy sufferers as a means of reducing personal mite allergen exposure," the authors write.

SOURCE: Allergy January 2006.