Japan Offspring Fund(JOF) is a consumer group and environmental NGO established in 1984. We have researched issues involving the safety of daily life, including chemical residues, endocrine disruptors, and genetically engineered food.

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Testing Vacuum Cleaners
International Standard Needed For Vacuum Exhaust Safety
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Pollution Of Interior Air

When you are vacuuming a carpet or tatami mats, some of the dust that is sucked into the vacuum cleaner actually also goes straight out again. This has been overlooked and ignored by many manufacturers and can cause health problems.

Dr. Masahiko Terasawa at the Terasawa Pediatric Clinic in Sendai City has told Japan Offspring Fund that when a vacuum cleaner is used inside a closed room, abnormal breathing often occurs, and there is a possibility of this leading to pneumonia. Because there are allergens in the dust, the person with allergy may experience coughing. Dr. Terasawa warns that this can deteriorate into heavy allergic reactions, asthma and hay fever.

Dust particles are not just directly harmful to the human body. The dust will come in contact with the inside of the air conditioner and the air purification machine, over time causing mold to grow there. The stale smell of polluted air is due to dust and mold. Another realization is that dust particles often contain many harmful chemicals, including plastic, formalin or phenol. Such substances are common in most homes. In the process of vacuuming, dust particles with such problematic substances are released into the interior air, causing many health problems.

Problems With Current International Standards

There is currently no proper international or national standard regarding vacuum cleaner exhaust or dust particles emitted from home vacuum cleaners. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) needs to develop a proper standard so that different vacuum cleaners can be compared with respect to exhaust quality.

Current standards stop at particles measuring 5 microns, while the dust consumers are concerned with can be as small as 0.3 microns. The majority of particle counters on the market can measure dust particles as small as 0.3 microns. In our opinion, current standard testing methods are not considering the actual condition of dangerous exhaust.

Dr. Masahiko Terasawa is worried that lives are at risk because of 0.3 micron dust particles which enter into the lung, triggering asthma attacks that can be lethal to small children.


Japan Offspring Fund maintains that it makes sense to consider small dust particles that easily enters deep into the lungs as a serious health problem. In fact, some machines exist that are designed to pick up small dust particles from air in order to make it cleaner. Thus we were very surprised to find that there are vacuum cleaners on the market that seem designed especially for doing the opposite: sucking up small dust particles from floors, carpets and tatami mats - only to discharge the dangerous particles straight out into the air.

IEC standards must be reformed based on scientific facts. Since dust particles as small as 0.3 microns can easily be measured using particle counters, it is time to call for a better standard. This would force vacuum cleaner manufacturers to improve their designs. The health of many people would benefit if all vacuum cleaners were designed not to emit dust particles as small as 0.3 microns. It is also likely that allergies and other breathing problems would be avoided.

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