When most people consider ways to safeguard their health, at the top of the list are diet, exercise and regular medical exams. Too often, we overlook another key factor in good health - having good air quality in the home.
According to a survey conducted by the American Lung Association, 85 percent of Americans don't realize that the air in their homes may be a health hazard. But, in fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Science Advisory Board (SAB) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health. It estimates that indoor air levels may be two to five times more polluted, and occasionally, 100 times more polluted, than outdoor air. These levels of indoor pollutants are of particular concern, because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors.
The American Lung Association reports that indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. In addition, it can cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue. People who already have respiratory diseases are at greater risk.
The good news is that you can take steps that will help reduce most allergens and other irritants, while improving the cleanliness and look of your home.
Fight Indoor Air Pollution with Better Vacuum Filtration
- Vacuum your home at least once a week. The vacuum cleaner is one of your best defenses in managing indoor air pollution, according to the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association. It literally can remove pounds of dirt, dust and contaminants from your home during each use.
- Further, vacuuming with an efficient filter can help in the fight against indoor air pollution, creating a cleaner home environment for your family.
- Efficient filters stop particles and pollutants drawn into the vacuum from re-entering the air through your vacuum cleaner's exhaust.
- Whether it's time for colds and flu, or seasonal allergies, you can take precautions to help reduce bacteria and other irritants in your home by vacuuming with a high efficiency filter - such as a HEPA filter. This type of filter can trap particles as small as 0.3 microns or 1/300th of a human hair. Many irritants are larger than 0.3 microns, and therefore, are large enough to be captured by HEPA and high efficiency filters:
Bacteria (0.3 microns), pet dander (0.5-11 microns), pollen (7 to 100 microns), plant spores (9 to 100 microns), and even some cooking (0.3 - 30 microns), wood (.03 - 3 microns) and tobacco smoke (.01 - 1 micron) (Particle Size Source: North Central Regional Extension Publications, Cooperative Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Select a Vacuum Cleaner with a High Efficiency Filter
- Not all vacuum filters are created equal. Begin your selection by choosing a vacuum cleaner with a surface filter, which can stop particles at the surface of the filter while resisting permanent clogging. The particles can be easily tapped away clean from the surface of the filter, restoring like-new airflow and efficiency. By resisting permanent clogging, maximum airflow is preserved through the filter …allowing optimum suction power with each pass of the vacuum. Greater airflow and suction power also reduces the time and effort required to effectively vacuum a carpet.
- Typical vacuum cleaners on the market today contain depth filters, which draw and capture particles inside the filter. Eventually the depth filter becomes clogged, reducing airflow through the filter, which can compromise its performance and potentially shorten the life of the vacuum cleaner. Fine particles that reach the motor can cause overheating and wearing down of the vacuum's mechanical parts through dirt and dust buildup. So be sure to look for a vacuum cleaner with a surface filter.
- While consumers increasingly are requesting HEPA filters, many do not understand what this level of filtration efficiency means. HEPA filters are rated for their ability to capture 99.97 percent of household dust, pollens, bacteria and many allergens and are effective at stopping particles down to 0.3 microns in size, or 1/300th the diameter of a human hair.
- Consumers need to understand that filtration efficiency is only half of the story. How the filter affects the vacuum cleaner performance is the real test of customer satisfaction.
- A HEPA filter in itself may not lead to optimal vacuum performance. Be wary of ordinary paper or microfiberglass filters that can tear or become damaged while in use, allowing dust particles and debris to flow through the filter or scatter back out of the vacuum and re-circulate into the air inside the home. They also can cost consumers time in repeat dusting and money in frequent replacement.
- Look for a filter that is easy to clean and reusable so that particles can be easily tapped away clean from the surface of the filter, restoring like-new airflow and efficiency.
Improve the Appearance of Your Home
- Poor vacuum cleaner suction can contribute to the concentration of dust that remains in carpet and coats furniture. Through normal household activity, that dust gets kicked up in the air, increasing the need to dust furniture more often.
- The right vacuum cleaner and its proper use can double or triple your carpet's life expectancy. If your vacuum is performing poorly, the carpet nap will remain matted and packed down from foot traffic. Sand and grit cannot be pulled from flattened carpet fibers. Discolored traffic trails begin to appear in the carpet. As the sand and dirt build up, it acts like sandpaper, slowly wearing, cutting and destroying the carpet fibers as you walk across them. (Source: Vacuum Dealers Trade Association, www.vdta.com)
- The overall appearance of your carpet can be enhanced with regular use of a good vacuum cleaner designed to provide optimum airflow through the filter. If the vacuum cleaner you purchase has enough airflow and suction to lift the carpet nap to the brushes, the vacuum will brush the nap and help it to stand up properly. The result will be newer looking and easier-to-clean carpeting. (Source: Vacuum Dealers Trade Association, www.vdta.com)
Survey Says: Americans Seeking Better Vacuum Filtration
- Consumers think vacuum cleaner filtration is important. Ninety-six percent of Americans responding to a survey conducted by International Communications Research and
sponsored by W. L. Gore & Associates, the Delaware-based manufacturer of CleanStream®
vacuum filtration products for home and commercial uses, said they think that vacuum filters are important for good air quality.
- In the same survey, Americans ranked filtration third among the features that are most important to them when buying a vacuum cleaner, right behind a vacuum cleaner's power and its manufacturer's reputation. In fact, a vacuum cleaner's style, as well as its comfort, weight and handling were less important than filtration to consumers.
- However, consumers also think that their own vacuum filters could be better. Only thirty percent of respondents said that their vacuum's filter is more than somewhat effective at trapping pollen, pet dander and other allergens and airborne impurities found in the home. With new technological advances in filtration, vacuum cleaner manufacturers are competing to be the first to change that perception. In the past few years, many advancements have been made.