Vacuuming your home may be bad for your health, a study suggests. Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia and Laval University in Canada have determined that vacuuming dusty surfaces may aggravate allergies by animating dust, bacteria, and mold. Subsequent analyses indicate that the fine “mist” may contain drug-resistant pathogens as well as the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
Published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, the findings suggest that indoor spaces may harbor similar allergens as outdoor environments. While the discovery is no reason to stop cleaning your house, it may help improve current disease and allergy assessment protocols by highlighting the potential presence of certain pathogenic agents. According to lead author Luke Knibbs, serious health complications may be linked to such sources.
“The dust found indoors could act as a vehicle for infant botulism infection that can have severe consequences,” he said, speaking to The Daily Mail. He added that the studied bacteria were “underrepresented in indoor [airborne particle] 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.”
The research team tested 21 different vacuum cleaners from 11 manufacturers. The set included models marketed for household as well as commercial use. Their ages ranged from and six months to 22 years.
Knibbs and his colleagues hope that their research will allow physicians and health officials to identify vacuum cleaners as possible culprits in medical case studies. The household appliance could also be implicated in allergy cases, infections, and hospitalizations.
Knibbs told reporters, “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 [airborne particle] exposure.”
Source: Luke D. Knibbs, Congrong He, Caroline Duchaine, Lidia Morawska. Vacuum Cleaner Emissions as a Source of Indoor Exposure to Airborne Particles and Bacteria.Environmental Science & Technology, 2012; 46 (1).