Do HEPA vacuums suck?


A team at Manchester University recently showed that vacuum cleaners equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filters actually stir up dust mites whenever they are used. Having previously demonstrated that brand-new HEPA-equipped vacuums also raise exposure to cat dander at the time they are used, they are claiming that ‘there is no significant advantage to using a HEPA vacuum cleaner to reduce exposure to airborne particles like dust mites’.

?However, this recommendation is not an entirely logical conclusion to draw from the study's findings. Although the research does appear to show that HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaners disturb as much allergen during use as any other vacuum, its authors confirm that machines fitted with HEPA filters do at least retain all the allergens they have captured, rather than putting some of them back into the air, as is the case with non HEPA-equipped machines. This alone makes the HEPA vacuum a valuable weapon in the fight against dust and dander.

The Manchester team carried out their experiments in actual homes, with the researchers wearing particle-trapping devices in their nostrils. It was measurement of the contents of these nasal traps which revealed that there was no difference in the levels of allergens circulating in the air at the time of vacuuming, whether HEPA or non-HEPA machines were being used.

However, continued cleaning with a HEPA vacuum would inevitably have produced an eventual reduction in allergen levels as a consequence of the HEPA machine's superior retention ability.

If this study is right, perhaps those allergic to airborne particulates should also consider wearing a mask or using a room air filter when
vacuuming. Perhaps the manufacturers of vacuum cleaners could also reassess the design of their machines to achieve a more efficient capture rate.

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Click here for more research on dustmites

First Published in June 2006

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?Do HEPA vacuums suck?