Are Vacuum Cleaners Bad for Health

Vacuum Allergy

Some vacuum cleaners spit fine dust and bacteria
back into the air, causing infections and trigger

You vacuum your home religiously to remove all the dust, dirt, and bacteria and ensure your indoor air is up to snuff.

But a new study suggests that some vacuum cleaners may be making things worse, not better.

Certain vacuum cleaners spit fine dust and bacteria back into the air, causing infections and trigger allergies.

Australian researchers tested 21 vacuum cleaners from 11 manufacturers, as well as two commercial models. The vacuums were six months to 22 years old and ranged from less than $100 to almost $800. Brands involved Dyson, Electrolux, Hoover, iRobot, and Sanyo. The investigators measured 62 different air emissions.

All emitted some bacteria, dust, and allergens back into the air. Newer and more expensive vacuum cleaners generally caused less indoor air pollution than older, cheaper models, the research showed.

Vacuums with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters emitted only slightly lower levels of dust and bacteria than vacuums that did not utilize these special filters. HEPA filters are supposed to eliminate 99.9% of the pollen, animal dander, and even bacteria from the air.

The discoveries appear in Environmental Science & Technology.

Are Bag-Free Vacuum Cleaners Better for Health

Cleaning your house with vacuum cleaners
that have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters
emits only slightly lower levels of dust and bacteria

"Both vacuum cleaning and the act of vacuuming can release and re-suspend dust and allergens, leading to increased exposure," write study investigators from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Indoor Air Cleaning Tips from the Pros

But don't go throwing your trusty vacuum cleaner out so fast, says Viviana Temino, MD. She is an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

"For a vacuum to do more harm than good, it has to be a really old vacuum cleaner that has never been cleaned," she says. "In general, most vacuums take up more dust, dirt, and allergens than they release."

HEPA filters are still the way to go; she says: "They remove more particles than they release back."

There are other things you can do to retain your indoor air clean. "If you or someone in your home does have indoor allergies, get rid of your carpet," she says. "If you have to throw rugs, wash them once a week in really hot water. This will kill off dust mites and other allergens." Central vacuum cleaners are best for better air quality.

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