Mac's Steamer Carpet Cleaner

Cleaning For Health

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Improving Your Indoor Environment

During the 1960’s and 1970’s much of our nation’s focus was on the pollution of our outdoor environment, but recently our focus has shifted to pollution of our indoor environment.

Concern for fuel economy in the early 1970’s led to changes in construction techniques and building design to prevent the loss of temperature-controlled air from buildings. Airtight structures keep air inside, but they also prevent the flow of fresh air from outside. Research by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that our indoor environment has two to five times more pollutants than outside air.

The quality of our indoor air has become more important to us in recent years in that the average American spends over 20 hours a day inside a closed structure. We spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. Heightened consumer health awareness has placed an emphasis on improving the quality of our indoor environment.

Carpet plays a vital, positive role in indoor air quality. It acts as an environmental filter, trapping and holding impurities from the air we breathe. The EPA and carpet industry findings indicate that with proper ventilation of new carpet, carpet itself does not contribute negatively to indoor air quality, but the buildup of soil in carpet does. Upholstery fabric also harbors soil and contaminants.

According to Michael A. Berry, Ph.d., former Deputy Director for the EPA Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office, the single leading cause of poor indoor air quality in built environments today is poor maintenance. Carpet and upholstery must be cleaned to remove trapped contaminants before they overflow and are released back into the indoor air.

For a healthier indoor environment, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) recommends:

  • Vacuum frequently. A vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency filtration bag removes soils and bio-contaminants from carpet and upholstery and reduces the release of respirable particles into the air. These bags are now available for most models of vacuum cleaners at retail stores that carry vacuum cleaners and accessories.

  • Periodically have carpet and upholstery professionally cleaned. Thorough cleaning removes soil and pollutants to improve indoor air quality.

  • Control the sources. Entrance mats halt tracked-in soil and contaminants. Tobacco smoke, which is trapped in carpet and upholstery fabric, is a major source of indoor pollution.

  • Increase fresh air flow.

  • Clean for health. Carpet and upholstery fabric hide soil. Don’t just clean for appearance when the accumulation of soil becomes visible.

 

Additional Info Below:

Carpet and Allergies

 

Carpet Does Not Exacerbate Allergies

Allergists routinely recommend carpet removal due to allergy concerns based on an allergen avoidance theory. Allergists believe that if all possible places where allergen can be held are eliminated, allergic reactions will disappear.  However, the removal of carpet has never produced a reduction in allergic reactions.  The incidence of allergy sufferers that use carpet is about the same as for those who avoid carpet. Numerous studies have been performed in cultures that do not use carpet and allergy rates per capita are very similar to the U.S culture where heavy carpet use is the norm.

In 1973, based on anecdotal evidence that carpet contributed to allergic reactions, the Swedish government banned the used of carpet in all public facilities.  Carpet was replaced with hard surface flooring materials in homes, commercial environments, government buildings, and carpet market share fell from approximately 20% of the market share to less than 2% of the total flooring market share.  Follow-up studies by the Swedish Central Statistics Bureau indicated a dramatic increase in reported allergies by the Swedish population following carpet replacement. As carpet was removed and hard surface flooring was installed, the incidence of allergy increased among the Swedish population. This alarming increase was in direct proportion to the amount of hard flooring materials installed. This ban was removed after 17 years when the dramatic increase in allergic reactions was confirmed.

Most of the mite allergen in the home can be found in pillows, mattresses, or upholstered furniture.  In fact, 30% of the weight of the average pillow is comprised of dead human skin scales (dust mite food source) and dust mite allergen.  The average mattress can weigh as much as 100 pounds more than when originally purchased due to the accumulation of the matter.  While carpet is typically mentioned in connection with allergies, pillow and mattress accumulations of these allergens pose a far greater exposure risk.

Regular Cleaning Greatly Reduces Allergens

Recent investigations show that carpet cleaning reduces the amount of mite allergen in carpet by more than 90% with each cleaning.  Dust mites tend to have seasons in which they proliferate.  Due to elevated humidity, dust mite populations tend to increase during the spring and summer and the population diminishes during the heating season when the air becomes much drier.  By scheduling carpet cleaning in bedrooms, media rooms, or other rooms, where time is spent on the floor, during September and October, allergen can effectively be removed before accumulation of allergen becomes an exposure risk.

In addition to regular cleaning, new treatments have become available which have been proven to be effective in eradicating dust mites.  Some products containing benzyl benzoate have received mixed scientific reviews relating to their efficacy.  To date, the most effective product brought to market is a product produced by The Ecology Works ( http://www.dustmitex.com/). This EPA registered product, (Dust Mite Control) can be added to the rinse water during cleaning and applied during the carpet cleaning process, or it may be applied as a separate treatment on a regular basis to prevent the accumulation of dust mite populations and their associated allergen.

It also must be noted that even though all carpet is characterized under one classification, there are numerous qualities of carpet with numerous construction characteristics.  Residential carpet is very different from commercial carpet in its release characteristics.  Loose constructions, have the tendency to release far more contaminants than tighter constructions.

For any flooring surface, effective maintenance and utilizing the philosophy of cleaning for health is a primary element in ensuring occupant wellness. Carpet acts as a trap for airborne allergen.  Once allergen becomes trapped within the pile of the carpet, it must be removed.  Without carpet to act as a filter, allergen tends to remain airborne or may become airborne with each footstep.  Studies reveal carpet is very effective in trapping this allergen without releasing it into the breathing zone.  Carpet cleaning has proven to be very effective in extracting this allergen and removing it from the indoor environment.  A good common sense approach for people with allergies is to install carpet and perform regular cleaning to remove the allergen.

Carpet is a Good Choice for Those With Allergies

In comparing the allergen removal efficiency of carpet and wood or tile flooring, allergen removal is much more effective with carpet than with hard surfaces.  Vacuuming of hard surfaces can be initiated as an effective extraction tool, but vacuuming of hard floors is rarely performed.

 Long-term studies have shown that proper carpet selection, along with an adequate maintenance program, can reduce the amount of allergen in carpet and provide a suitable living environment.  In one such study, dust mite allergen levels in carpet were significantly reduced over the course of one year.  The study involved 12-year old carpet that had received neglectful maintenance.  Despite heavy concentrations of mite allergen, levels were continually reduced over the course of the study.  Hot water extraction alone produced a 92% reduction, while vacuuming continued to reduce allergen levels on a daily basis.  No airborne dust mite allergen was detected during the two-year study.  This study was performed using regular maintenance only. 

Allergens can found in any environment.  The presence of allergen on any surface does not necessarily identify a source of allergens or a cause for allergic reactions.  The ability to remove these allergens or a flooring surface’s ability to contain these allergens without releasing them into the breathing zone should be the primary factor in choosing floor covering material.  Carpet can fulfill these requirements by providing a surface that absorbs airborne allergen without releasing them into the breathing zone and provides construction characteristics that allows for effective removal as a result of routine maintenance.  

Key Points to Consider

  • The replacement of carpet with a smooth flooring surface does not produce the results expected by allergy patients.

  • Allergy rates per capita in cultures that do not use carpet are very similar to the U.S. culture where heavy carpet use is the norm. 

Kawasaki Syndrome

Kawasaki Syndrome is respiratory disease that can cause potentially fatal cardiovascular complications. In the mid-80's the disease began to be linked with carpet cleaning. Is is true? Is there really a link between cleaning and Kawasaki Syndrome? Is carpet cleaning dangerous?

The Facts

Kawasaki Syndrome first appeared in Japan in the 1960's after being discovered by Dr, Tomisaku Kawasaki, and has been found to cause cardiovascular complications in infants and young children. Symptoms include prolonged fever that does no respond to antibiotics, along with conjuntivitis in the eyes, cracked lips, and swelling, peeling, and redness in the hands and feet.

In 1982, an outbreak of Kawasaki Syndrome occurred in Denver with 23 reported cases. Eleven out of 23 children had been exposed to carpet cleaning within 30 days of the outbreak. Twelve of the 23 had no contact with carpet cleaning at all.


The Media Scare

The media made the link between carpet cleaning and the disease, causing widespread panic among parents. The existence of such a link has been debated ever since. On one side, several in the medical community feel that carpet should not only not be cleaned, but should be removed from the home entirely. On the other, industry professionals counter by stating there has never been even the slightest bit of evidence that would link the disease with carpet cleaning.


What the Experts Say

A 1985 study in in Colorado revealed a link between Kawasaki Syndrome and living near small bodies of water. Four subsequent surveys performed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) of other outbreaks, one detailed investigation by Maryland state health officials, and other studies by investigators in eastern Ontario and western Quebec  revealed no relationship to carpet cleaning.  Since most cases of the disease have no relationship to carpet cleaning, carpet cleaning is not necessarily a factor for Kawasaki Syndrome.

This is explained clearly on the Kawasaki Syndrome Foundation web site (http://www.kdfoundation.org/).

Dr. Michael Berry, former director of the National Center for Environmental Assessment, in his book "Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health", states that most indoor cleaning problems are  related to dirty carpets, but this problem can be solved through maintenance and restoration. Carpet acts as a sink to collect pollutants of all kinds from indoors and out, according to Berry. As the carpet gets polluted, it stores more and more dirt, dust, and contaminants. When the sink is full, it needs to be emptied.

If a carpet is not cleaned on a regular basis, it can become a breeding ground for biopollutants, Berry says. It is crucial to regularly empty the sink and make sure that your carpets are cleaned properly. He adds that the medical community recommends that people remove carpets from buildings and homes, but it is wrong to assume that all carpets will become contaminated and affect people's health. Rarely do people clean their carpets in an effort to protect their health, Berry says, but cleaning carpet regularly can improve indoor air quality.

The Carpet and Rug Institute has conducted numerous studies regarding carpet and its effect on the environment. Their conclusion as stated on their web site: "Recent studies show that, contrary to sensationalist media reports, carpet is a safe, cost-effective flooring choice for virtually any indoor setting". Their web site can be found here (http://www.carpet-health.org/).


What About Use of Chemicals?

Although there may be some products used in carpet cleaning that people should be cautious with, most carpet cleaning chemicals are similar to detergents used to clean clothes, according to Dr. Azziz Ullah, president of FABPRO, Inc. "In most cases, I think water-based products are relatively safe, as most of the dangerous chemicals used by cleaners in the past are no longer used. The chemicals used in carpet cleaning are very similar to those used to clean your clothes."

Commercial cleaning products are considerably less toxic and dangerous than what a consumer can buy and put under their sink for their own cleaning chores. Commercial products are formulated in professional strength, but when diluted for actual use they become significantly weaker and therefore less likely to cause any irritation on the part of the user or others.

Note: Mac's Steamer Carpet Cleaner only uses safe cleaning products with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions to ensure the safety of the technicians as well as the residents.

EPA Cleaning Chart

The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted numerous studies on indoor air quality. Their findings show that regular cleaning significantly reduces pollutants within a structure. More frequent cleanings are recommended for homes where children and pets are present.

 

CLEANING FREQUENCY GUIDELINE 

Environment:

Normal

Contaminated Outside, Dusty

Extremely Cold Weather Cliamtes

High Humidity Biogenic

Day Care Center

2 weeks

1 week

2 weeks

1 week

Nursing Home

1 month

1 month

1 month

1 week

Residence

(2 persons, non-smoking)

6-12 months

2 months

4-6 months

4-6 months

(2 persons, smoking)

4 months

2 months

3 months

4 months

(young children)

6 months

1 month

3 months

4 months

(young children with pets)

3-6 months

1 month

2 months

2 months

Office Building

(ground floor)

3-6 months

1-4 months

2-6 months

2-6 months

(higher floors)

6-12 months

2-6 months

3-9 months

3-9 months

Food Service Establishment

1 month

1 week

2 weeks

2 weeks

Commercial Building

3-6 months

1 month

2 month

2 months

(From – U.S. EPA Letter, January 1989)

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Mac's Steamer Carpet Cleaner, Inc.   499 Hammond St.   Bangor    ME    04401 Phone: (207) 942-1141 Fax: (866) 728-4828

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