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Product Review 4: Allergies & Asthma

Why You Shouldn’t Breathe, use your Kitchen or Sleep in Your Bed – Aug. 2003


“As most people know”, reports Keith Petersen of The Eardly T. Petersen Company in Westfield, “there is a national epidemic of allergies and asthma. The problem is so large that the estimates for associated health costs from medical bills, lost worker productivity and lost school days are in the vicinity of eight billion dollars each year.”

What many people do not fully realize is that the indoor environment – whether residential or office – is, generally, so highly polluted with a potpourri of allergens and toxic chemicals that the experts have labeled the average home as generally exceeding the Federal limits set for threshold tolerances for these substances. Some reports have gone as far as to label the average home environment as being more in the nature of a “toxic waste dump” than being “home sweet home.”

Mr. Petersen says emphatically, “There is a need for people to understand that it is extremely important to take a more proactive stance in making the indoor environment healthy. The focus needs to change so that effective steps are taken to make the indoor environment a healthy and safe place in which to live, work and play. The difficulty is largely that of human nature – since oneself doesn’t immediately fall down gasping or dead (although, in alarmingly greater instances, this is happening), oneself is slothful about taking the necessary steps to make the home or office environment healthier.”

The problems are serious and the extent is not yet fully known. What is known is that we spend about 90% of our time indoors, that the indoor environments are, on an average, 5 to 10 times more polluted than the outdoor environment, and that we have cleverly insulated and sealed up our indoor environments for energy reasons to the end result that we have trapped ourselves with these pollutants in environmental cages of our own making.

Mr. Petersen states, “The air is so filled with pollutants that the estimates are that each breath brings in hundreds of thousands of microscopic particles. The kitchens are frequently being labeled as being the most germ-infested room in the home. And, the mattress, pillows and bedding are filled with millions of dust mites with all the attendant allergen-causing feces, body parts, etc. The other rooms of the house are, in degree, little better.”

“To understand the problem,” continues Mr. Petersen, “it is necessary to understand the adversaries. You cannot see these adversaries – they are, in most instances, microscopic; and, the worst offenders are usually the tiniest ones – below one micron (micrometer) in size. This is less than one hundredth the width of a human hair. These offenders are everywhere – pollens, molds, smoke, cooking and heating gas byproducts, chemicals from cleaning products, chemical offgasing from upholstery, from rugs, from paints and wallpapers, dander from animals (you don’t have animals? You probably still have plenty of dander in the house). They are in the air, the bedding, the pillows and cushions of your easy chair, the rugs, on the floors, hiding securely in the pores of your kitchen countertops (the ones you thought were nice and clean) underneath what is called a “biofilm”. In the average carpet, after a brief incubation period, are almost a billion bacteria (you have a choice – you can operate the average vacuum and fill the house with these bacteria so that you can nicely breathe them in; or, you can shortcut the process and simply put your nose into the carpet and deeply inhale). How is oneself going to combat problems that are on such a grand scale?”Says Mr. Petersen, “The antidotes are straightforward: (1) use only a vacuum that is airtight. The primary defense against an unhealthy house is a good vacuum cleaner. A good vacuum – in distinction to an average vacuum – cleans very well due to improved design that leads to higher cleaning performance. Obviously, the better a vacuum cleans the more allergens will be removed. A good vacuum will also totally retain all the millions of microscopic LDPs (Lung Damaging Particles) that are being removed each minute of the vacuuming process. To accomplish this feat – remember, we are talking about billions of bacteria and dust mite feces-sized particles – the vacuum housings must be absolutely airtight. Only then does the incorporation of a high-quality, HEPA filter into the vacuum cleaner have any real function and meaning. For example, Miele – a 100 year-old German appliance manufacturer – makes the only residential canister vacuum cleaner in the world that is certified – machine and filter together as a system – to work at HEPA level. Nothing at all escapes from the machine.”Mr. Petersen continues, “(2) operate a good quality air purifier on a continuous basis. A good air purifier provides a major step towards creating a clean, healthy home or office environment. The air we breathe contains hundreds of millions of skin flakes, dust mite feces and body particles, pollens, molds, spores, dander if there are animals, chemical gases, bacteria, smoke, etc., and we are snorking it down by the shovelful. A good quality air purifier – not the mass merchandise models – will cost pennies a day to operate and will make a dramatic difference, all other things being equal, in indoor air quality. The air purification industry now provides models that cleanse and purify the indoor air environment in the exact way that a thunderstorm makes the outdoor environment fresh and clean. Some models – less than a foot square in size – will serve an entire house up to 3,000 square feet.”

“The last thing (3),” says Mr. Petersen, is to eliminate or minimize the use of cleaning and sanitizing chemicals and to clean to a much better level of “clean”. This can easily be accomplished by cleaning, instead, with a good Steam Vapor Cleaner (again, get a good one! – not one from an infomercial or a mass merchandiser). A good quality Steam Vapor Cleaner, using only water and no chemicals, heats the water to about 300 degrees Farenheit to produce a hot, dry steam. Then, using a variety of included accessories, the user can clean and instantly sanitize almost anything – from rugs and floors (great on wood floors) to tile, counter tops, sinks, faucets, cabinets and handles, toilets, showers, tubs, ovens, grills, mattresses and a whole bunch more! It is chemical free cleaning, and – on contact – the process instantly destroys dust mites, fleas, bacteria, molds and viruses. The good ones employ an important feature called “continuous clean”, whereby the unit does not have to be shut down, refilled and allowed to reheat as it runs out of water. This is a major time-saver.”

“These are the simple solutions to what is, potentially, a very complex problems,” says Mr. Petersen. “The average person tends to run to the medical people when the sniffles, coughs or allergies arrive or persist. While the medical people are there to help, the generally followed path is to prescribe drugs – a dual-edged sword. A primary, commonsense step is to work to reduce or eliminate the allergens. The above three steps provide a highly effective method to gain this end. The testimony from our many customers – as well as from our own experience – shows that any of these steps will help considerably. By implementing all of these as a three-fold process, you can rest peaceful that, barring some unusual toxic condition, etc. your house is as clean and healthy as is possible.”For any questions on indoor environmental concerns, please visit The Eardly T. Petersen Company at 224 Elmer Street in Westfield. Or, contact them at 908-232-5723 or e-mail them at