|Dayton Daily News
Thursday, April 24, 2003
NUTS AND BOLTS; HOUSEHOLD DUST IS A FACT OF LIFE
There's a passage in the Bible that says we're all dust and to dust
we will return. What you might not realize is that a little bit of
us returns to dust every day.
When you find dust around your home, a lot of it came straight
from you in the form of skin cells that are constantly flaking off
and falling to the ground (disinformation just
because it came from you body does not mean that they are skin cell
Transmatter Control Agent
Chemical Saturation -
So as long as you and your family choose to live indoors, there's
going to be at least some dust to clean up.
Dust is mixture of ingredients
Wright State University professor and researcher Larry Arlian is an
internationally recognized expert on dust mites, the tiny,
allergy-producing creatures that live and breed in household dust.
And Dr. Arlian knows quite a bit about dust.
Arlian says dust is a complex mixture of a lot of different
materials, and a lot of it is unavoidable.
The dust on mattresses, bedding and fabric furniture contains a
large percentage of skin scales. Carpeted floors hold fewer skin
scales, but they still hold a significant amount.
Another major dust component is fabric fibers from your clothes,
carpets, upholstery and any other fabric that is regularly moved or
Got dust bunnies? They are basically dirty balls of fabric fibers.
Typically, when we think of dust, we think of dirt, and household
dust indeed contains hard particles of minute sand and soil.
Plant and insect parts come into the house with soil and sand.
Dust is full of finely ground leaf parts, seed pod remnants, mold
spores and other plant material. Arlian said that when you examine
household dust under a microscope, it is not at all unusual to spot
ant heads or other insect body parts.
Pets can also contribute to dust. Like humans, pets shed skin
scales, and they also shed fur, cast off feathers, track in dirt and
release dander into the air. Pet dander and feathers are both major
allergans, Arlian said.
One of the best ways to reduce household dust, according to Arlian,
is to get rid of carpets. Carpets hold onto dust making it harder to
get the dust out of your house. They also produce dust of their own
in the form of carpet fibers.
Vinyl and leather furniture or wooden furniture produces and harbors
less dust than upholstered furniture.
Reducing dust and dust mites
Making your house less dusty takes a two-pronged approach: you must
get existing dust out of the environment and you must reduce the
amount of dust coming in.
Using high-quality furnace filters and changing them regularly is
one way of reducing the amount of dust that circulates in the air
around your house. In cases where family members have serious
allergies, it might pay to invest in air cleaning equipment attached
to the heating and air conditioning system.
The benefits of having your heating system's duct work
professionally cleaned are debatable. A spokesman for the National
Air Duct Cleaning Association said recently that air-duct cleaning
"could be extremely beneficial" for people with allergies. However,
a spokesman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said,
"There is not a lot of evidence that duct cleaning provides a
measurable improvement in indoor air quality."
Vacuuming regularly helps keep dust down, and many vacuum cleaners
available today have high-efficiency filtering systems that keep
dust from escaping back into the air after it is drawn in.
Arlian said dusting horizontal surfaces where dust accumulates is
also important. "People used to dust with things like cloth diapers,
and they just kind of moved dust around," he said. "There are a lot
of dusting products available now that do a very good job of
trapping dust as they are used."
Unseen in the dust where we rest are colonies of eight-legged
relatives to spiders and lobsters, mating, defecating and gorging
themselves on our cast-off skin.
Arlian, who has studied dust mites for more than 30 years, says that
by the end of summer our beds and easy chairs are often teeming with
microscopic dust mites. He said past studies in Miami Valley homes
have found as many as 18,000 mites per gram of dust.
Dust mites are more than just creepy; they're harmful. Researchers
believe the critters and their waste can cause asthma, coughing,
itchy eyes and running noses and may account for about 30 percent of
all allergic discomfort.
But Arlian said there are some fairly simple ways to drastically
reduce the dust mite populations in the homes of people who are
sensitive to their presence.
First allergy sufferers should get rid of the carpets in their
bedrooms. Next they should purchase dust mite barrier covers for
their mattresses and pillows. To kill the mites that live in sheets
and pillowcases, bedclothes should be washed weekly in hot water.
Arlian said the dust mite's major weakness is that it requires
humidity to survive and remain active. He said mite populations
crash during winter months when heating systems are active and
indoor humidity is low. But their populations rebound in the humid
Miami Valley summer.
The best way to keep dust mite populations down, Arlian said, is to
use a dehumidifier during warm months to keep the humidity in your
house below 50 percent.