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Down & down/feathers bed pillows: the connection to allergies debunked
By: Stu Bloom
The problem is the protein allergens in the dust mite feces. Not the down and/or feathers.
The two most common species of dust mites found in the United States are the North American dust mite (dermatophagoides farinae or der f dust mite) and the European dust mite (dermatophagoides pteronyssinus or der p dust mite).
As you sleep, your skin sloughs off skin cells (commonly called dander) that pass through the pillow shells covering your pillows and into the down and down/feather fill inside your pillows.
Every day, a human being sheds 0.5 to 1 gram of skin cells, enough to feed thousands of dust mites for many months.
Dust mites feed on these dead skin cells.
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These dust mites, in turn, excrete dust mite feces that contains a protein allergen called Der f 1 (or dermatophagoides farinae allergen 1) and Der p 1 (dermatophagoides pteronyssinus allergen 1).
Dust mites produce about two thousand times their own body weight in feces during the course of their short lives.
It’s the protein allergens in the dust mite feces embedded inside your down and down/feather fill that triggers of asthma and allergies. Not the actual down and/or feathers.
You could be exposed to these protein allergens if:
- the fabric used by the manufacturer your pillow was not certified to be a 100% barrier to the transfer of Der f 1/Der p 1 protein allergens
- the fabric used by the last refurbisher of your pillow was not certified to be a 100% barrier to the transfer of Der f 1/Der p 1 protein allergens.
- the down or the down/feather mix inside your pillows does not meet the highest standards of cleanliness.
The conventional wisdom is wrong
The conventional wisdom says that the down and down/feather fill inside your pillows cause and/or accelerate asthma and allergies.
That’s not true.
The notion that down and/or feathers trigger allergic reactions is a myth “promoted” by the manufacturers of synthetic pillows.
You’re probably familiar with that decades-old, constant drum beat: synthetic pillows are “healthier” than down and down/feather pillows.
That’s not true.
Fact is, a number of scientific studies have proven, beyond doubt, that the “average” synthetic pillow harbors far more dust mites and protein allergens from dust mite feces than the “average” down or down/feather pillow.
A ground-breaking study by Kemp et al (House dust mite allergens in pillows, British Medical Journal, Volume 313, Page 916, March 1996), found that the “average” synthetic polyester pillow contained up to 8 times more protein allergens from dust mite feces than the “average” down or down/feather pillow.
And the reason for this is quite simple: the fabrics used to construct the pillow shells for synthetic pillows are typically cheap, ultra-thin, low thread count (loosely woven) cotton, polyester or blended fabrics.
And the result?
Dust mites easily penetrate the pillow shells of your synthetic pillows and grow into large colonies as they feed on the dead skin cells sloughed off while you sleep.
When you go to sleep, dust mites go to work!
Manufacturers of synthetic pillows are smart
Now, the manufacturers of synthetic pillows are a smart bunch.
They know that the “average” two year old synthetic pillow harbors far more protein allergens from dust mite feces than the average two year old down and/or feather pillow.
So they developed “allergen-avoiding” zippered pillow protectors.
The irony is that you now have to buy their “allergen-avoiding” zippered pillow protectors to protect yourself from their “healthier” synthetic pillow.
And the result?
The allergen-avoidance market is a multi-billion dollar industry. Told you they were a smart bunch.
You’re not sensitive to the cleanest possible down and/or feathers
It’s highly probable that your “sensitivity to down and/or feathers” has nothing to do with the down and/or feather itself. You’re probably not sensitive at all to what I call the cleanest possible down and/or feathers.
What’s more likely is that you’re sensitive to the “dirty” down and/or feather fill inside your pillows. Your fill could be dirty for any number of reasons, including:
- the down and/or feather fill did not meet the highest standards of cleanliness when you initially purchased the pillow
- the pillow shell used in the original construction of your pillow wasn’t certified as a 100% barrier to the transfer of Der f 1/Der p 1 protein allergens in dust mite feces.
- the down and/or feather fill has been improperly cared for
- your pillow hasn’t been refurbished within the past two years
- the pillow refurbishment service that last refurbished your pillow omitted one or more of the 4 critical steps required to properly “clean” your down or down/feather fill
- the pillow shell used by the pillow refurbishment service that last refurbished your pillow wasn’t certified as a 100% barrier to the transfer of Der f 1/Der p 1 protein allergens in dust mite feces.
Down and/or down/feather pillows – adjusted to your personal preference for softness or firmness – have always provided a comfortable sleeping surface that cradles your head in comfort.
There’s no reason to deny yourself one of the small pleasures in life just because the manufacturers of synthetic pillows have successfully indoctrinated the public on the “health benefits” of synthetic pillows or because your current down and down/feather pillows are not as clean as they should be.
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