Older, cheaper vacuum cleaners release more bacteria and dust: study

Jan 04, 2012
Older, cheaper vacuum cleaners release more bacteria and dust: study

Some vacuum cleaners — those basic tools for maintaining a clean indoor environment in homes and offices — actually contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing into the air bacteria and dust that can spread infections and trigger allergies, researchers report in a new study. It appears in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Lidia Morawska and colleagues explain that previous studies showed that vacuum cleaners can increase levels of very small particles and bacteria in indoor spaces, where people spend about 90 percent of their time. In an effort to provide more information about emission rates of bacteria and small dust particles, the scientists tested 21 vacuum cleaners sold in Australia. The vacuums came from 11 manufacturers, included those marketed for household and commercial use, ranged in age from six months to 22 years and cost from less than $100 to almost $800. They looked at the effects that age, brand and other factors had on the amount of small particles and bacteria released into air.

All of the vacuums released some fine dust and bacteria into the air. Surprisingly, vacuums with so-called High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in some cases released only slightly lower levels of dust and . Newer and more expensive vacuum cleaners were generally less polluting than older or less expensive models.

Explore further: Halliburton pays $1.1 bn for Gulf of Mexico BP spill

More information: Vacuum Cleaner Emissions as a Source of Indoor Exposure to Airborne Particles and Bacteria, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (1), pp 534–542. DOI: 10.1021/es202946w

Abstract
Vacuuming can be a source of indoor exposure to biological and nonbiological aerosols, although there are few data that describe the magnitude of emissions from the vacuum cleaner itself. We therefore sought to quantify emission rates of particles and bacteria from a large group of vacuum cleaners and investigate their potential determinants, including temperature, dust bags, exhaust filters, price, and age. Emissions of particles between 0.009 and 20 μm and bacteria were measured from 21 vacuums. Ultrafine (<100 nm) particle emission rates ranged from 4.0 × 106 to 1.1 × 1011 particles min–1. Emission of 0.54–20 μm particles ranged from 4.0 × 104 to 1.2 × 109 particles min–1. PM2.5 emissions were between 2.4 × 10–1 and 5.4 × 103 μg min–1. Bacteria emissions ranged from 0 to 7.4 × 105 bacteria min–1 and were poorly correlated with dust bag bacteria content and particle emissions. Large variability in emission of all parameters was observed across the 21 vacuums, which was largely not attributable to the range of determinant factors we assessed. Vacuum cleaner emissions contribute to indoor exposure to nonbiological and biological aerosols when vacuuming, and this may vary markedly depending on the vacuum used.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

We're surrounded! House dust is a rich source of bacteria

Apr 08, 2008

If you’ve always suspected there are unknown things living in the dark and dusty corners of your home and office, we are now one step closer to cataloguing exactly what might be lurking in your indoor environment. Buildings ...

The skinny on how shed skin reduces indoor air pollution

May 09, 2011

Flakes of skin that people shed at the rate of 500 million cells every day are not just a nuisance — the source of dandruff, for instance, and a major contributor to house dust. They actually can be beneficial. A new ...

Subway dust may trigger lung damage

Oct 01, 2007

Subway trains produce airborne dust particles that could damage the lungs of commuters, scientists in France are reporting in a study of the Paris subway system scheduled for the October issue of ACS’ Chemical Re ...

Recommended for you

Halliburton pays $1.1 bn for Gulf of Mexico BP spill

7 hours ago

Oil services company Halliburton said Tuesday it would pay a $1.1 billion settlement over its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig blowout that led to the United States' most disastrous oil spill.

Underwater grass comeback bodes well for Chesapeake Bay

7 hours ago

The Susquehanna Flats, a large bed of underwater grasses near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, virtually disappeared from the upper Chesapeake Bay after Tropical Storm Agnes more than 40 years ago. However, ...

Clean air halves health costs in Chinese city

10 hours ago

Air pollution regulations over the last decade in Taiyuan, China, have substantially improved the health of people living there, accounting for a greater than 50% reduction in costs associated with loss of life and disability ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (12) Jan 04, 2012
In my career HEPA filters had to be tested at certified effective. Components using them had to produce less than 1 inch-H20 differential pressure.