Health: Is your vacuum cleaner making you sick?

‘Bioaerosols’ may pose indoor health risk.

Study finds potential pathogen hotbed vacuum cleaner dust

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As if you didn’t already have enough things to worry about, Australian and Canadian scientists say that vacuum cleaner dust contains bacteria and mold that “could lead to adverse effects in allergic people, infants, and people with compromised immunity.”

The researchers said the findings are worrisome because sampling found resistance genes for five common antibiotics in the sampled bacteria, along with the Clostridium botulinum toxin gene, which may be implicated in sudden infant death syndrome.

The research was done by scientists at the University of Queensland and Laval University and the findings have been published in the October issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“Even though no quantitative data are available for antibiotic resistance gene emission while vacuuming, the observed emission rates for bacteria might suggest that the genetic content of those bacterial cells, including antibiotic resistance genes, may contribute to indoor bioaerosol exposure,” the researchers explained, after using a special clean air wind tunnel to measure vacuum emissions from 21 vacuums of varying quality and age.

The clean air wind tunnel enabled them to eliminate other sources of particles and bacteria, said Luke Knibbs, a researcher involved in the study.

“That way, we could confidently attribute the things we measured purely to the vacuum cleaner,” Knibbs said.

The results were in accord with earlier studies which have shown human skin and hair to be important sources of bacteria in floor dust and indoor air—which can be readily resuspended and inhaled, according to report co-author, Caroline Duchaine.

Knibbs hopes that other studies will follow this one, raising the profile of potential indoor sources of culprits in unsolved medical cases. The investigators conclude their report, saying that vacuum cleaners are “underrepresented in indoor aerosol and bioaerosol assessment and should be considered, especially when assessing cases of allergy, asthma, or infectious diseases without known environmental reservoirs for the pathogenic or causative microbe.”


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