Vacuum Dust Linked To Infant Botulism, Could Contain Harmful Bacteria And Mold

A must read for all vacuum wielding parents!

“For a vacuum to do more harm than good, it has to be a really old vacuum cleaner that has never been cleaned,” Viviana Temino, an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Miami School of Medicine told Medscape. “In general, most vacuums do take up more dust, dirt and allergens than they release.”

HEPA filters, which help weed out fine particles like allergens, are helpful, doctors say. They should be changed regularly, Jeffrey May, principal scientist at May Indoor Air Investigations in Tyngsborough, Mass., said. “Make sure to vacuum under furniture and behind furniture,” he advised. “You can’t believe the stuff that accumulates there, and this can be an enormous source of allergens.”

More serious conditions, like infant botulism, have been linked to vacuum dust before. The rare disease caused by exposure to Clostridium botulinum can multiply in a baby’s intestines and have life-threatening complications if left untreated. In 2002, an 11-week-old infant died from the disease and it was traced to household dust released by the family’s vacuum cleaner.

Knibbs notes that vacuum cleaners should not be overlooked when seeking causes of certain medical conditions. “Our study demonstrated that vacuum emissions may be a source of bioaerosols that are complex in source, nature and diversity,” the study suggests. “This exposure source is underrepresented in indoor aerosol and bioaerosol assessment and should be considered, especially when assessing cases of allergy, asthma or infectious diseases.”


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