The increase in the number of asthma cases has heightened our awareness of how indoor air quality affects our general health. Asthma is one of our nation's most common chronic health conditions. Many substances can aggravate allergies or increase the severity of asthma symptoms in individuals who are sensitive to these allergens or irritants. Vacuum cleaners can remove many of these irritating particles from the air.
The filtration efficiency of a vacuum cleaner may significantly affect airborne dust and allergens in indoor air. To prevent these minute particles containing allergens from being re-circulated into the air, a vacuum cleaner's filtration system must be very efficient at trapping small particles. To really get a carpet clean, pass the vacuum cleaner over the target area as many as eight times. Only use vacuum cleaner bags until they are half filled. As the bag fills up with dirt and dust, airflow becomes limited and the vacuum cleaner loses its suction capacity.
Using a vacuum that has a HEPA or ULPA filter may help reduce allergens. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is a filter that meets standards for collecting 99.7 percent of all particles at 0.3 microns (a human hair is about 60 to 80 microns). Most HEPA filters are disposable and must be replaced every 6 to 12 months. A HEPA filter is placed at the last stage of filtration. Then, all the air flowing through the vacuum must pass through the HEPA filter.
ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air) is a filtering efficiency specification for filters that retain all particles to 0.12 microns at an efficiency rate of 99.999 percent.
If your family has anyone who suffers from chronic allergies or asthma, a central vacuum system is the best choice. Dirt is either collected in a container in the basement or garage or pumped directly outside the house, not back into the indoor air. Central vacuum cleaners are generally more expensive, and consideration should be given to the cost of installation as well as the design. There are no onboard tools, and the system uses longer hoses than typical vacuums.
Micron and electrostatic filters have high filtration efficiencies, around 98 percent at 0.3 microns. These filters trap fine dust particles and create an electrostatic charge as air passes through them. Micro-lined vacuum bags are available for most major vacuum cleaners. They are 2-ply construction and contain Bactrastatâ¢, an anti-bacterial agent. These filters offer 99.7 percent filtration.
Contact your local University of Illinois Extension office and visit these web sites:
Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homes
Carpet and Rug Institute