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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Nov;104(5):1079-83.

Assessment of vacuum cleaners and vacuum cleaner bags recommended for allergic subjects.

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  • 1University of Virginia Asthma and Allergic Diseases Center, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.



High-quality vacuum cleaners and vacuum cleaner bags are often recommended to allergic patients as a means of reducing indoor allergen exposure. A number of vacuum cleaners on the market today claim to capture 99.9% of particles 0.3 microm or larger entering the vacuum cleaner, and many vacuum cleaner bags are now being sold as microfiltration bags.


The purpose of this study was to compare the allergen-trapping abilities of vacuum cleaners and to use a new technique for testing vacuum cleaner bags that are recommended for allergic patients.


Vacuum cleaners were tested in an 18-m(3) laboratory room permeated with dust containing high levels of cat allergen by using techniques previously described. Air was sampled with parallel filters in conjunction with a particle counter. The filters were assayed by ELISA for cat allergen (Fel d 1). Vacuum cleaner bags were tested by using a modified dust trap to pull sieved house dust containing a known amount of Fel d 1 across the material used for the bag. Allergen passing through the bag was trapped on a filter covering the exit of the trap and analyzed for Fel d 1.


In general, vacuum cleaners designed for allergic patients leaked lower amounts of allergen (<0.5-4.04 ng/m(3)) than that found in our previous studies (<0.5-100 ng/m(3)). Single-layer vacuum cleaner bags performed poorly (1250-2640 ng recovered) compared with most of the 2- and 3-layer microfiltration bags (0.53-2450 ng recovered). The range of allergen recovered from the 2-layer bags (0.93-2450 ng recovered) highlighted the variability found between manufacturers.


The results suggest that although allergen leakage has been reduced, there is still room for improvement. A method of testing allergen leakage by using Fel d 1 should be applied to vacuum cleaners and bags recommended for allergic patients.

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