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Allergies Health Center

Are Vacuum Cleaners Bad for Your Health?

Australian Study Shows Most Vacuum Cleaners Release Dust, Bacteria Back Into the Air
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Indoor Air Cleaning Tips From the Pros continued...

Feather dusters just relocate dust around the room. Instead, try a microfiber or electrostatic cloth. These don't stir up dust, she says.

Jeffrey May says HEPA filters are still the best. He is the principal scientist at May Indoor Air Investigations in Tyngsborough, Mass., and author of several books, including My House Is Killing Me! The Home Guide for Families With Allergies and Asthma. “A junky old vacuum cleaner will definitely release more allergens than a newer one,” he says.

His advice? Get a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter, and change the filter and clean your house regularly. “Make sure to vacuum under furniture and behind furniture,” May says. “You can't believe the stuff that accumulates there, and this can be an enormous source of allergens.”

David Corry, MD, is not a fan of the vacuum cleaner. Corry is a professor and chief of the section of immunology, allergy, and rheumatology in the department of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

He says that the only kind of vacuum that makes sense is a central unit. With these, the motor and filtration unit are located outside of the house, so all of the dust is also filtered outward.

“Standard vacuums all will emit dust of some kind, but it is very concerning to learn that older units spew out even more particulates,” he says.

“If you agitate a carpet by walking across it or vacuuming it, you will aerosolize these dust, germs, and spores, making it more likely that you will inhale the things that will cause your symptoms,” he says.

If you have allergies or asthma, replace carpets with hard tile, wood, or linoleum floors, he says. “Use the best vacuum that you can ... HEPA filters may not be as good as manufacturers portray them, but nonetheless if you have asthma, use them.”

Hands down: “It will do a better job than a conventional filter.”

'Better to Continue Regular Vacuuming'

Jill A. Notini says vacuuming the home is still the way to go. She is vice president of communications and marketing for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

Notini wasn’t able to review the study, but says the American Chemical Society’s news release regarding it doesn’t lead her to conclude “that anyone should stop vacuuming their home. It is by far better to continue regular vacuuming and cleaning to reduce particles and help improve overall indoor air quality,” she tells WebMD.  

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