Newsletter -SAFETY OF OUR FOODS AND LIFE-
Our investigation of vacuum cleaners indicates that many consumers experience improved health when they used a vacuum cleaner that does not emit dust particles or allergens into the air of the room. Yet, this important information is not generally known.
The main reason we do not use petition campaigns as an action strategy is that they are not efficient. But there is more to the story...
Japan Medical Association recommends vacuum cleaners that are bad for people with asthma and allergies
The exhaust air from many vacuum cleaners can be dirty and cause respiratory problems, including asthma and allergies. Some types of filters, such as water filters, are not effective at all, and in our tests they actually made the air dirty. Japan Medical Association has recommended two such vacuum cleaners on their website. This is a serious problem, since it may lead many medical doctors to recommend bad vacuum cleaners to patients that suffer from asthma and allergies. Japan Medical Association should correct the information.
Annually in Japan , around 3000 people die from asthma attacks. Since dirty exhaust air from vacuum cleaners is one of the known causes of asthma, this is an area where it is possible to avoid many deaths and suffering.
Until around 10 years ago, the number of deaths due to asthma attacks was around 5000-7000 annually. It is said that due to new drugs, such as steroids administered with inhalators, it has decreased to around 3000. There is much advice on the Internet for people suffering from asthma, but only a minority of doctors who give advice are emphasize removing the real cause of the suffering.
There are many different causes of asthma. The people who suffer reactions to allergens in interior air show remarkable improvement if the air quality is improved. Dr Masahiko Terasawa, who writes for Japan Offspring Fund's monthly journal, says improving the interior air is his first advice. In spite of this, the companies that make vacuum cleaners and other home appliances continue to sell vacuum cleaners designed in such a way that the exhaust air is dirty.
Among vacuum cleaners with filters, both the cyclone type and the water filter type are now recommended by Japan Medical Association, even though these filters have been shown to be ineffective.
Japan Offspring Fund has performed and published tests on vacuum cleaners since April 2004. We revealed that the Sanyo vacuum cleaner model with a cyclone-style exhaust system is blowing out very dirty air. In other words, the dust particles and allergens that are removed from carpets or floors pass through the vacuum cleaner and out through various holes in the body of the machine. Vacuum cleaners with water filters are also both ineffective and make the air dirty.
Last year, we warned about these types of vacuum cleaners in our book, "Tsukauna, Kiken!" (Don't use, danger!), but after newspapers such as Mainichi Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun wrote about it, there was no publicity for example on TV. Thus this is a virtually unknown issue.
The only vacuum cleaner that Japan Offspring Fund can recommend is Electrolux Oxygen, a model that had clean exhaust in our tests.
When Electrolux Oxygen is used, the people who suffer from asthma experience an improved condition, due to the fact that almost no dust or allergens are coming out of the body of the vacuum cleaner.
During January and February 2006, Japan Offspring Fund sent a questionnaire to 500 people who had purchased an Electrolux Oxygen vacuum cleaner. The reply ratio was 76.8%. Among those who replied, 287 people said they had a history of asthma, atopy or other allergic reactions. Classified by condition, 57 people had asthma, 137 people had pollen allergies (hay fever), and 146 people had atopy or other allergies. In many cases, people listed several conditions.
We asked if they noticed any difference after having started using the Electrolux Oxygen vacuum cleaner. 3.5% said their asthma was healed, while 19.3% answered that it improved, and 31.6% answered that it improved a little bit. As for other allergies, 5.5% said their condition was healed, 15.1% answered that there was considerable improvement, and 24.7% answered that it improved a little bit. We did not ask about pollen allergy because the questionnaire was sent during the winter season, when there is little or no pollen in the air.
We asked Kitasato University professor Kou Sakabe, M.D. about his opinions regarding the results. He told us that considering that Oxygen is designed so that dust particles are not emitted, there is a merit compared to other types that actually make the air increasingly dirty. He mentioned that since there are many other causes of allergic reactions, such as food, artificial chemicals and stress, it might not be possible to only point to the choice of vacuum cleaner as a solution, but that this clearly can improve the condition in some cases.
Japan Offspring Fund also got a number of detailed responses from different users who told us that their health got better after using the Electrolux Oxygen vacuum cleaner. We should mention that some people complained that the vacuum cleaner is too heavy, and one person wrote and said it was difficult to use.
Japan Offspring Fund - our activities and ideas
"We put all those pages of signatures in a closet! This is what an official at a government agency once told me. In most cases, no one even looks at all those signatures on a petition. And after that, all the paper has to be incinerated. What a waste, I thought. Consequently, since we started 22 years ago, until now, Japan Offspring Fund has never participated in campaigns to collect signatures.
There are cases when collecting a certain number of signatures can force an official to quit. There are clear rules for such campaigns, so I have full respect for that. However, the usual signature campaigns have no legal basis at all. That means, no matter how many signatures we try to collect, in reality the government does not need to change its ways.
Campaigns to collect signatures are usually done in this way, without making clear that the effect is usually very small. Of course, I don't mean to say that I reject such campaigns: if a friend gives me a petition, I usually sign it right away. But I do not sign a fund-raising petition from someone I do not know.
The reason we do not use petition campaigns as an action strategy is that they are not efficient.
In the beginning, when this organization started, we all worked as volunteers. At that time, we felt there was no room for actions that were not efficient. Now, when our organization has members who are paying membership fees, and the office staff can get paid, I still feel strongly that there is no room for actions that are inefficient.
Whenever a new problem used to appear, someone usually said, "Let's collect signatures But that has also begun to change. Collecting signatures and signing petitions are valid tools for co-op style organizations and for labour unions. Sincere people with an interest in an issue will think carefully before deciding to sign or not. In such cases, the strength increases.
Starting a petition campaign can look impressive, and help to increase the number of members and donations. In this way, a petition campaign can get good results, but this is not only due to the number of signatures in itself.
Let us consider the real purpose, which is to try to change a government policy or solve a problem, for the benefit of the people. When a large number of people are expressing their sincere resistance, based on facts, the government will have to listen, and there will be some change.
It can be a lot of fun to be active and participate in a campaign. At the beginning of a campaign, it is also possible to gather a large amount of people. However, it is more important to provide the necessary information. It is the thorough investigation and the publication of information and facts that can cause real change.
These are some of the reasons why we think participating in campaigns to collect signatures are not suitable for Japan Offspring Fund.
In the next issue, I will discuss my views regarding “following the natural principle
Junichi Kowaka, director Japan Offspring Fund
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