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Cleaning down and down/feather bed pillows: 6 reasons not to irradiate them

 

Cleaning down and down/feather bed pillows: 6 reasons not to irradiate them

By: Stu Bloom

 Many consumers have been led to believe that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) can:

  • kill the dust mites inside your down and down/feather fill
  • kill the dust mites on the outside surface of your pillow shells
  • significantly denature (or deactivate) the the Der f 1/Der p 1 protein allergens in the dust mite feces inside your down and down/feather fill – the primary trigger of asthma and allergies
  • remove the down and feather dust, dead skin cells (commonly called dander), dead dust mites and dust mite feces from inside your down and down/feather fill.

The internet is awash with well-meaning but technically inaccurate information about the application of germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) to “completely clean” your down and down/feather bed pillows.

Despite everything you might believe or might have read on the internet, germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light):

  • CANNOT “completely clean” the exterior pillow shells or the interior fill of your down and down/ feather bed pillows.
  • CANNOT kill the live dust mites inside your down and down/feather fill or on the outer surface of your pillow shells.
  • CANNOT significantly denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens in the dust mite feces inside your down and down/feather fill – the primary trigger of asthma and allergies.
  • CANNOT remove the down and feather dust, dead skin cells, dead dust mites and dust mite feces from inside your down and down/feather fill.

The source of these false beliefs

 

So what are the sources of this misinformation?

  • Manufacturers of hand-held UV-C emitting wands

    Many manufacturers of hand-held UV-C emitting wands (think: a Star Wars light saber) CLAIM that their products kill the dust mites inside the fill of your down and down/feather pillows and on the outside surface of your pillow shells by merely exposing the outside surface of your pillow shells to germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) for a few seconds.

  • Manufacturers of hand-held UV-C emitting light duty vacuums

    Many manufacturers of hand-held UV-C emitting light duty vacuums CLAIM that their products kill the dust mites inside the fill of your down and down/feather pillows and on the outside surface of your pillow shells by merely exposing the outer surface of your pillow shells to germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) for a few minutes.

    Then they CLAIM that the built-in vacuum miraculously “extracts” the dead dust mites from deep inside the fill – through the fabric of your pillow shells!

  • In-home services that use UV-C emitting heavy duty vacuums

    There are even in-home services that CLAIM to use UV-C emitting heavy duty vacuums to kill the dust mites inside the fill of your down and down/feather pillows and on the outside surface of your pillow shells by merely exposing the outer surface of your pillow shells to germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) for a few minutes.

    Then they CLAIM that the built-in vacuum miraculously “extracts” the dead dust mites from deep inside the fill – through the fabric of your pillow shells!

    Kill the dust mites inside your down and down/feather fill?

    Kill the dust mites on the outside surface of your pillow shells?

    Significantly denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens in the dust mite feces inside your down and down/feather fill?

    Extract the dust mites from inside the fill of your pillows through the fabric of your pillow shells?

    Science?

    No. More like science fiction!

No scientific basis for these beliefs

 

There is no scientific basis for the belief that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) can:

  • kill the dust mites inside your down and down/feather fill
  • kill the dust mites on the outside surface of your pillow shells
  • significantly denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens in the dust mite feces inside your down and down/feather fill – the primary trigger of asthma and allergies.
  • remove the down and feather dust, dead skin cells (commonly called dander), dead dust mites and dust mite feces from inside your down and down/feather fill.

The opposite is true

 

Fact is, the only scientific paper that addresses this issue actually proves that the opposite is true.

Source: Lah et al,“Effect of germicidal UV-C light (254 nm) on eggs and adult of house dust mites”, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Vol 2, Issue 9, pages 679-683, September 2012.

The important results of this research were as follows…

  • At a distance of 10 centimeters for 10 minutes, the mortality rate for the adult dust mite was negligible.
  • At a distance of 10 centimeters for 20 minutes, the mortality rate for the adult dust mite was about 40%.
  • Mortality rates for the adult dust mite only reached 100% after 60 minutes.

Given that these were the mortality rates for adult dust mites conducted in a controlled laboratory environment on a flat, smooth, non-porous, easily accessible surface, and given that the outer pillow shell shields the dust mites in the fill from the germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light), what are the odds that you can kill all the live dust mites inside the fill each of your pillows using one of these UV-C emitting devices?

We’d guess about slim to none.

And, even if germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) was miraculously able to penetrate the outer pillow shell, who would spend 60 minutes scanning each pillow in the hope that one of these UV-C emitting devises might be able to kill 100% of the adult dust mites inside the fill of each of your pillows?

We’d guess no one.

Based on the results of this study it would appear that claims about the ability of UV-C emitting wands and vacuums to kill live dust mites inside the fill of your pillows are way overblown.

Actually, to say that those claims are way overblown is being overly generous to those making those claims.

What you need to know about UV-C light and your pillows

 

There are 6 things you need to know about germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) and your down and

down/feather bed pillows:

 

1.  UV-C light cannot denature (deactivate) the protein allergens in dust mite feces inside the fill

 

Germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) cannot denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens produced by the dust mite feces inside the fill of your down and down/feather pillows.

These protein allergens are the primary triggers of asthma and allergies.

There is no scientific research to support the notion that UV-C light can denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens produced by the dust mite feces inside the fill of your down and down/ feather pillows.

 

2.  UV-C light cannot denature (deactivate) the protein allergens on the surface of your pillow shells

 

Germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) cannot denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens produced by the dust mite feces on the outer surface of your pillow shells. These protein allergens are the primary triggers of asthma and allergies.

There is no scientific research to support the notion that UV-C light can denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens produced by the dust mite feces on the outer surface of your pillow shells.

 

3.  UV-C light might be able to kill the live, adult dust mites inside the fill

 

Germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) might be able to kill the live, adult dust mites inside the fill of your down and down/feather pillows.

There is one study that indicates that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) might be able to kill the adult dust mites inside the fill of your of your down and down/feather pillows.

We use the term “might be able to” because it took 60 minutes to kill an adult dust mite on a smooth, flat, non-porous, easily accessible surface in a laboratory when exposed to germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) at a distance of 10 centimeters.

Think about that for a moment…

It took 60 minutes to kill an adult dust mite on a smooth, flat, non-porous, easily accessible surface in a laboratory using germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light).

So how’s it possible for you to kill any of the thousands of live, adult dust mites buried deep inside your down and down/feather fill?

Source: Lah et al, “Effect of germicidal UV-C light (254 nm) on eggs and adult of house dust mites”, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Vol 2, Issue 9, Pages 679-683, September 2012.

 

4.  UV-C light might be able to kill the live, adult dust mites on the surface of your pillow shells

 

Germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) might be able to kill the live, adult dust mites on the outer surface of your pillow shells.

There is one study that indicates that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) might be able to kill the live dust mites on the outside surface of your pillow shells.

I use the term “might be able to” because it took 60 minutes to kill an adult dust mite on a smooth, flat, non-porous, easily accessible surface in a laboratory when exposed to germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) at a distance of 10 centimeters.

Think about that for a moment…

It took 60 minutes to kill an adult dust mite on a smooth, flat, non-porous, easily accessible surface in a laboratory using germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light).

So how’s it possible for you to kill any of the live, adult dust mites on the outer surface of your pillow shells?

Source:  Lah et al, “Effect of germicidal UV-C light (254 nm) on eggs and adult of house dust mites”, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Vol 2, Issue 9, Pages 679-683, September 2012.

 

5.  UV-C light cannot kill the embryonic eggs of dust mites inside the fill

 

Germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) cannot kill the embryonic eggs of dust mites inside the fill of your down and down/feather pillows.

There is no scientific research to support the notion that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) can kill the embryonic eggs of dust mites inside the fill of your down and down/feather pillows.

 

6.  UV-C light might be able to kill the embryonic eggs of dust mites on the surface of your pillow

 

Germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) might be able to kill the embryonic eggs of dust mites on the outer surface of your pillows.

There is one study that indicates that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) might be able to kill the embryonic eggs of dust mites on the outside surface of your pillow shells.

We use the term “might be able to” because it took 15 seconds to kill the embryonic eggs of dust mites on a smooth, flat, non-porous, easily accessible surface in a laboratory when exposed to germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) at a distance of 2 centimeters or less.

Source: Needham et al, “Ultraviolet C Exposure is Fatal to American House Dust Mite Eggs, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol 117, Issue 2, Supplement, Page S28, February 2006.

Understanding the Needham study

 

It’s important to note that the Needham study (referenced in Point 6 above) involved:

  • the embryonic eggs of dust mites, not live, adult dust mites
  • the embryonic eggs situated on a flat, smooth, non-porous, easily accessible surface insidea laboratory.

Yet, the manufacturers of these UV-C emitting wands and vacuums often cite the Needham study as “proof” that their UV-C emitting devices can:

  • kill the dust mites inside your down and down/feather fill
  • kill the dust mites on the outside surface of your pillow shells
  • significantly denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens in the dust mite feces inside your down and down/feather fill – the primary trigger of asthma and allergies.
  • remove the down and feather dust, dead skin cells, dead dust mites and dust mite feces from inside your down and down/feather fill.

Remember that the Needham study was conducted in a highly controlled manner on a flat, smooth, non-porous, easily accessible surface inside a laboratory on the embryonic eggs of dust mites.

Not on live, adult dust mites.

Can the results of the Needham study be extrapolated to the real world conditions of down and down/ feather bed pillows?

Of course, not.

 

Deceptive literature

 

The literature offered by many of the manufacturers of these UV-C emitting wands and vacuums and the literature offered by many service providers that use these devices appears to be intentionally deceptive.

Many seem to follow the same Hollywood science fiction script…

1. They state that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) kills bacterial and viral pathogens (bacteria and viruses that can cause disease), fungi and spores.

That’s an ACCURATE statement. But only if your down and down/feather fill is removed from the pillow shell.

2. They state that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) kills live dust mites.

 

That’s an INACCURATE statement. Even if your down and down/feather fill is removed from the pillow shell.

3. They wrap these two statements in a confusing avalanche of statistics, anecdotes and links related to allergies, asthma, bacteria, viruses, fungi, spores, dust mites, bed bugs, indoor air pollution, and the like. 

 

All of which have absolutely nothing to do with using germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) to kill adult dust mites.

4. They use the terms “bacterial or viral pathogens” and “dust mite” interchangeably.

These scientific terms are distinctly different. They are not one and the same.

Bacterial or viral pathogens are bacteria and viruses that cause disease; dust mites are microscopic bugs or ticks that live on the dead skin cells (commonly called dander) shed by humans as they sleep.

They toss in a long list of bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores and list the intensity of germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) necessary to achieve a 99% “kill rate” for each type of bacteria, virus, fungus and spore.

The implication, of course, is that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) will be just as effective killing dust mites inside your pillows as it will be denaturing (or deactivating) bacterial and viral pathogens.

What they don’t tell you is that these “kill rates” apply solely to denaturing (or deactivating) bacterial and viral pathogens in large scale, commercial air purification systems used in specialized facilities such as a hospital’s Emergency Room. They don’t apply to dust mites inside the fill of your pillows!

They support those two statements with “Independent Research Data”.

Turns out that their “Independent Research Data” on killing dust mites using germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) is not “independent”, not “research” and not “data”.

Is it any wonder that, after reading all their literature, consumers might actually come to believe that germicidal ultraviolet light (UV-C light) can

  • kill the dust mites inside your down and down/feather fill
  • kill the dust mites on the outside surface of your pillow shells
  • significantly denature (or deactivate) the protein allergens in the dust mite feces inside your down and down/feather fill – the primary trigger of asthma and allergies.
  • remove the down and feather dust, dead skin cells, dead dust mites and dust mite feces from inside your down and down/feather fill.

Summary 

 

There you have it. The pros (if there are any) and cons of “completely cleaning” your down and down/feather pillows using hand-held UV-C emitting wands and vacuums.

There is absolutely no scientific proof to support the notion that you can “completely clean” your down and down/feather pillows using hand-held UV-C emitting wands and vacuums. I’d go out on a limb here…

Anyone who believes that they can “completely clean” their down and down/feather bed pillows using hand-held UV-C emitting wands and vacuums – with the fill still enclosed within an outer pillow shell – has probably been exposed to way too much UV-C light at some time in the past!

 

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Filed Under:

Bed Pillow Cleaning,Position Paper

Author

Stu Bloom

Stu Bloom is Founder and President of RAVE FabriCARE. RAVE FabriCARE, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, cares for fine garments, household textiles and accessories and serves clients throughout the USA and Canada. Stu is the author of various ebooks on these subjects, all of which are available from www.ravefabricare.com/freestuff. He is an evangelist for true quality cleaning and is a contributor to and editor of True Quality Cleaning, RAVE FabriCARE’s blog. You can find Stu on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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