Indoor Allergens Are Closely Linked with Allergic Disease and Asthma

Author: Patrick J. Vojta
Date: August 15, 2000

(American Thoracic Society's 96th International Conference) A significant portion of homes in the United States have beds with dust mite and cockroach allergen levels that exceed levels previously associated with triggering asthma symptoms, and cumulative exposure to these indoor allergens has been found to be a risk factor for developing allergic disease and asthma, with high levels of these allergens causing asthma. These findings are from the National Allergen Survey, conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, that included 831 homes representative of regions, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and housing characteristics in the United States. Researchers collected vacuum dust from five or six sites throughout each home and questioned home owners about issues including frequency of home cleaning and whether occupants had allergies or asthma. By extrapolating the results to the entire United States, the researchers estimated that 44 million homes (more than 45 percent of occupied housing units) have beds with levels of dust mites associated with allergen sensitization and that 22 million homes (23 percent) have beds with levels of dust mites believed to be associated with symptomatic asthma. The findings also showed that less than 40 percent of American households have bedding that is washed at least weekly in hot water and that only 4 percent of homes have impermeable mattress/pillow covers on their beds. The researchers recommend a number of ways for people with asthma or allergies to reduce their exposure to indoor allergens, including the following: encase mattresses and pillows in dust-proof or allergen impermeable covers; wash all bedding and blankets once a week in hot water; replace wool or feathered bedding with bedding made of synthetic materials; replace wall-to-wall carpeting in bedrooms with bare floors, if possible; use a damp mop to remove dust, as a dry cloth stirs up mite allergens; use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity at about 50 percent or lower; use a vacuum cleaner with low emissions.--PATRICK J. VOJTA, PH.D., ET AL., National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Washington, D.C.

COPYRIGHT 2000 American Academy of Family PhysiciansCOPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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