A New Cleaning Trend: Anti-Allergen Services

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The rug-cleaning specialist is a person who works with customers who tend to have valuable home furnishings. This customer is more affluent, better educated, and concerned about health and safety issues.

They are the perfect customer profile for offering anti-allergen services. However, most homeowners are not aware that a proven system of anti-allergen cleaning is available.

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The scientific community has come to the conclusion that better environmental hygiene will improve people's health. We in the cleaning industry have intuitively known all along that a clean home or work place promotes health. Now, recent scientific work is proving our point.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "the EPA and its Science Advisory Board have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health." EPA statistics show levels of many airborne pollutants as high as two- to five- to even 100-times higher indoors than outdoors, a noteworthy fact as most Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, "50 percent of all illnesses are caused by or aggravated by polluted indoor air."

Researchers had long wondered whether Indoor Air Quality plays a role in the increasing rate of asthma nationwide. About 17.3 million Americans have this long-term respiratory disease. Since 1980, the prevalence of asthma and asthma-related hospitalizations and deaths has increased 75 percent. It is the most common chronic disease among children. Moreover, the phenomenon is not limited to the United States. The prevalence of the respiratory disease in some countries - including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom - exceeds that in the United States. Protein-related allergens are the key group of indoor pollutants that act as triggers for asthma and other respiratory ailments. These proteins, in addition to mold and fungi, include allergens from dust mites (Der p 1 and Der f 1); Cockroach (Bla g 1); dog dander (Can f 1) and cat saliva (Fel d 1).

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), after reviewing the latest scientific studies, wrote their report concluding that "exposure to allergens produced by house dust mites - found in nearly every indoor environment - can lead to asthma in children who are predisposed to developing the disease. The indoor agents included allergens from dust mites and cockroaches; fungi and mold; dander, hair, and saliva from domestic pets and other animals; viruses and bacteria; spores and materials from houseplants; and irritants from secondhand tobacco smoke, pesticides, cleaning and building materials and other pollutants."

Let's take a look at dust mites since they are the number one household allergen. House dust mites are arachnids, not insects. Related to spiders, dust mites are microscopic, eight-legged creatures that are 0.3mm in length and invisible to the human eye. They are found in virtually all homes, no matter how clean. They live on the dust that accumulates in carpets, fabrics, furniture and bedding.

The primary source of dust mite exposure in the home is in the bedroom, which provides the best conditions of warmth, humidity and food for their growth. They are present in mattresses, pillows, blankets, carpets, upholstered furniture, curtains, and similar fabrics. The average bedroom can be infested by millions of microscopic dust mites. We spend around one-third of our lives in the bedroom, so we are in close and prolonged contact with dust mites.

The house dust mite survives by eating our dead skin cells, which make up to 80 percent of house dust. They also live off water vapor, which we provide for them by perspiring and breathing approximately one pint per person, per night. So mites are even found in climates with very low humidity. A dust mite will produce 20 fecal pellets per day; that is 200 times its own body weight in feces during its short lifetime. If dust mite pellets were the size of golf balls, the average queen-size bed would have a pile of pellets 70 feet high.

During the night, most people toss and turn up to 60 or 70 times. This expels mite feces pellets from bedding and pillows into the air. These allergens can stay in the air for up to two hours. Once airborne, dried dust mite droppings are inhaled, causing allergic reactions in asthmatics. These allergens can cause wheezing, coughs, itchy eyes, sniffles and in more serious cases, asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis.

The eradication of the dust mite should not be your objective, because total eradication is impossible. Eradication would require such high levels of pesticides that it would be harmful to humans. Additionally, we always carry some mites on our hair or eyebrows that would be re-introduced to our bedding, starting the cycle again. 

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