Associated Press: February 2003:A 2003 Environmental Protection Agency report stated that childhood asthma rates are doubling. The EPA report is the agency’s second comprehensive look at the environmental hazards to children’s health. The finding showed the percentage of children getting asthma has doubled in two decades, rising from 3.6 percent in 1980 to 8.7 percent, or 6.3 million children by 2001. The exact cause for the increase in unknown but researchers state a number of factors have been studied. Those range from exposure to dust mites, cockroaches and pesticides to tobacco smoke, ozone and soot. EPA officials are intent are examining the role of indoor air pollutants, such as dust mites, especially since there have been modest improvements since 1990 in lessening exposure to outdoor air pollutants. The reduction of indoor factors will be the key to reversing this trend.
Dust Mites are microscopic creatures related to the spider family. They are invisible to the human eye and are about 0.3mm in length. They live on human skin flakes. They are most prevalent in the bedroom where millions can exist in your mattress, boxspring, pillows and comforters. They are also found in upholstered furniture, carpeting and other fabric items. Dust mites produce 20 or more fecal pellets per day, which is the primary allergen to humans. We inhale these allergens while sleeping and during periods when these particles become airborne such as when vacuuming and disturbing the infested fabrics.
It has been proven that dust mites and their allergen Der p1 are a major factor in allergic reactions. A key to controlling allergic reactions is controlling the dust mite population in your home. Lower mite populations lower the amount of mite allergen, Der p1. Other clinical studies have revealed that avoidance of dust mite allergens in early childhood can prevent the onset of asthma in adults. A study as reported in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy tested the feasibility and effectiveness of using a portable, domestic steamer for the control of dust mites, its effects on mite populations and concentration of the allergen Der p1.2
A domestic steamer was used to treat carpets squares that were seeded with a known numbers of dust mites. The number of live mites was monitored for 4 months and in 8 test squares and 8 control squares. Measurement of mite populations and allergen levels were taken before and after steaming with a domestic steamer.
The results showed two significant findings. No live mites were found in any of the eight steam-treated carpet squares. In contrast, the numbers of live mites extracted from the eight-control squares rose from a mean of 11 on day 3 to 185 four months later. The fact that no live mites were found in any of the eight steam-treated carpet squares at any time during the study shows that steaming is a highly efficient method of killing house dust mites. More significant for allergy sufferers is the measurement of the allergen Der p1. There was no difference in the concentration of Der p1 in dust samples of untreated carpets, but in those which had been steam cleaned there was an average 87% fall in the concentration of Der p1.
The study concluded with:
"Steaming requires nothing more than water and heat and therefore is non-polluting compared with mite eradication methods that require the use of detergents and other chemical agents. Further more, the design of domestic steamers, [such as the Jiffy® Steamer], renders it safe for domestic use as long as the operating instructions are followed. In addition, we observed no damage, or shrinkage of the fabric, nor discoloration and the carpet dried within a half-hour of treatment. There is no indication of prolonged retention of residual moisture, as with wet-vacuum cleaning which may promote mite population growth.
Finally, steaming as reported herein is the only method of house dust mite control that combines effective killing of mites and substantial reduction in allergen concentrations within a single system. These factors, taken together, render domestic steamers especially suitable for the management of dust mites and their allergens the homes of allergy sufferers."