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Re: GBlist: HEPA-filter vacuum cleaners

Hi Michael:
        I do not have the data you seek, but urge you to look at the
available data on typical household vacuum cleaner performance in some of
the proceedings of the triennial indoor air conferences. In sum, the smaller
particles simple get through the bag (which is really just a coarse particle
filter). Thus, most fungal spores that are carried into the vacuum cleaner
bag will be caught by these devices, but bacteria and viruses will not.
Fragments of skin and droplet nuclei are also sites for bacteria.  One
problem is that vacuum cleaners stir up a lot of particulate matter without
drawing it into the bag at all. Only the very best designs avoid this
problem, and even they are less than perfect. Repeated vacuuming continues
to collect particle mass showing the low effectiveness of single pass vacuum
        When you ask about asthma and allergy, you raise all kinds of
questions about what causes these illnesses. The answers are complex.
Chemicals might cause allergic and asthmatic reactions, so particle removing
will be only minimally effective in protecting occupants from exposure. As
far as particles are concerned, the more removal the better, but it is
likely that many of the allergens are distributed both above and below the
cut point for effective trapping in a vacuum cleaner bag. 
        The dominant view is that asthma (onset or trigger) is strongly
related to dust mite allergen. There are other potential causal agents
including mold, mold spores and mold metabolites; volatile organic
chemicals; and, others.
        The clear answer to your question is that better vacuum cleaning is
beneficial but not necessarily sufficient.
        Regarding the devices themselves, you should request performance
data from the companies selling purportedly "high performance" machines and
see what they have. I would be very interested in seeing what you get, who
sends it, and who does not. There is currently an effort by UL to develop a
standard for performance. You can contact UL for more information.

At 01:31 PM 4/24/97 -0400, you wrote:
>Hello Greenbuilding Folk,
>I'm interested in learning more about HEPA-filter vacuum cleaners to reduce
>allergens and irritants.  Can anyone recommend a relatively objective source
>of information/reviews.  I'd love to read a "Consumer Reports" type of
>article comparing several makes and models written by a reliable source.
>Also, is anyone familiar with steam-cleaning systems, such as the one sold
>by Real Goods (the Vaporetto 2085 [$550] and 2000R [$770] Ecological System
>from Polti of Italy).  Are they reliable, how well do they clean, and how do
>they effect allergens and irritants?
>Thank you,


Hal Levin         <hlevin@cruzio.com>

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