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Allergen Avoidance and Vacuum Cleaner Certification

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Recent studies conducted on vacuum cleaner emissions, have vacuum cleaners as a potential source of indoor exposure to airborne allergens, bacteria and other pathogens. In this blog post we review the issues around this occurrence and the steps manufacturers of vacuum cleaners can take to ensure their products meet certification standards, in particular the asthma & allergy friendly certification standard.  As an accredited immunoassay testing facility airmid healthgroup is a designated laboratory for the program.

It is widely accepted that allergen avoidance in the home is a fundamental feature of preventative medicine. Recognising this, the Third International Workshop on Indoor Allergens and Asthma, has stated “Regular vacuuming is important to minimize the total allergen burden, but its effects are unlikely to be sufficient to control exposure room carpets and furnishing.”  Consequently, it has been made apparent that to achieve an adequate reduction in domestic allergen levels, a combination of approaches must be adopted.

The inability of a vacuum cleaner to sufficiently control exposure to carpet and furnishing related allergens has been illustrated in a study comparing vacuum cleaner emissions from 65 major brands of vacuum cleaners, as sources of airborne allergens and bacteria. This study supports the claim that differences in the ability of a vacuum cleaner to remove allergens from a surface is due to either the properties of the vacuum cleaner itself or the environment in which it operates.  A range of factors have been identified as influencing factors of vacuuming efficacy. Such factors encompass humidity, fabric composition, fabric treatment, allergen levels and types, as well as the nature and degree of soiling.

A vacuum cleaner that can function without increasing the level of airborne allergens may be eligible for asthma & allergy friendly certification. This may be achieved by ensuring the product does not have any leakage, or poor filtration. Testing of such parameters and their impact on indoor air quality may be carried out in an environmental test chamber. The use of an environmental test chamber also allows the analysis of room disturbance and cleaning head agitation, which can result in an increase in airborne allergen. It also allows analysis of how long it takes for allergen levels to settle following disturbance from vacuuming, which is also an important parameter for asthma & allergy friendly. Furthermore, given the removal rate of allergens and dust between vacuum cleaner models or brands is variable, the capability of a vacuum cleaner to remove such particulates should be communicated to the consumer.

Certification by Allergy Standards and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America for example affords the advantage of communicating quality control and quality assurance to the consumer.

Certification for the program is based on laboratory testing and approved standards for compliance.

Certification criteria are based upon:

  • A reduction of allergen burden from carpeting
  • A capability to trap allergens in a vacuum system without leakage through filter, seals or bag
  • Functional capacity being retained in the presence of a partly filed bag or clogged filter
  • The ability to change a vacuum cleaner bag without excessive allergen escape or exposure to operator   

Performance of a vacuum cleaner to said criteria, conducted in an approved laboratory, serves as qualification for asthma & allergy friendly certification.


Related testing
Vacuum cleaner testing

Contract Research


Vacuum Cleaner Emissions as a Source of Indoor Exposure to Airborne articles and Bacteria accessed 08-Aug-12

asthma & allergy friendly, Upright Vacuum Cleaner Standard, Protocol. ASP:03-01/103