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57 Ways To Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself)
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44. Control Dust, Dust Mites, And Other Allergens

dust mite

A growing body of scientific evidence, as well as patients’ personal experiences, shows a strong link between indoor dust and illness, especially asthma and allergies. The most common culprits in household dust are dust mites, mold, mildew, fungi, algae, roaches and other insects, pollen, and animal dander.

Droppings from dust mites and cockroaches, as well as their body parts, contain powerful allergens. Fine particles of these materials can become airborne as “dust” and can be drawn into the lungs, causing serious health problems. Mites thrive in dust and high humidity and live primarily in mattresses, carpets, and upholstered furniture.

electrostatic precipitator

Typical furnaces are not designed to trap the fine particles and spores that cause health problems. However, an electrostatic precipitator, which offers high efficiency in removing small particles, can be installed in the return air duct near the home’s furnace. The charging section gives particles a positive charge. Then the negatively charged collector holds on to the particles. Units have a removable dust-collecting plate that needs to be cleaned regularly.
pleated filter

Pleated filters are much more efficient than standard fibrous furnace filters; smaller ones do not require modification to the furnace or ductwork. But they are less efficient than electrostatic cleaners. Pleated filters should be inspected regularly and may need more frequent replacement than conventional filters.
passive electrostatic filter

Passive electrostatic filters are naturally charged by static electricity (they use no power) and fit into a standard filter slot. They provide fairly good filtration, but not as good as some pleated filters. Although somewhat expensive, these filters can be washed and reused.
room-sized air cleaner

Room-sized air cleaners, which are usually placed in sleeping rooms or where occupants spend most of their time, must be coupled with other dust-control strategies. The most effective room-sized units are either the electrostatic precipitator or HEPA type. A HEPA filter is a high-efficiency particulate-arresting filter, capable of removing most of the particles that can cause health concerns.
vaccuum cleaner

If you use a vacuum cleaner for dust control, ideally it should have a HEPA filter. Filters in conventional vacuums eject fine particulates into the air, as do vacuums that direct the exhaust stream through a container of water. However, some high-performance, conventional vacuums can perform almost as well as vacuums with a HEPA filter.
mattress

Since dust mites grow mainly in mattresses and bedding, avoid exposure and reduce their potential for trouble by washing all bedding and clothing brought to the bedroom every week to 10 days in the hot cycle of your washer. Use mattress covers and pillow cases designed to block mites. These covers and pillow cases are available at surgical suppliers and healthcare outlets.
mites grow...

Mites grow best at 75- to 80-percent relative humidity. In warm weather, air-conditioning can be used to maintain a humidity level of 50 percent or lower. You can use a humidity gauge to determine the level of humidity in the bedroom. During winter, try to keep indoor humidity levels in the range of 35 to 50 percent—the optimum range for health.
drip tray

Mold, mildew, fungi, and algae require high moisture levels, wet surfaces, or standing water to grow. Make sure drip trays under refrigerators and air conditioners are properly drained or regularly emptied. Eliminate standing water in the house, repair water damage, and kill visible growths on walls or other surfaces.
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