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BellaOnline's Allergies and Colds Editor

Duct cleaning and allergies

Some experts recommend having your home's air ducts cleaned as part of an allergy prevention program but how essential is it? There seems to be much disagreement about the benefit of this fairly costly procedure which ranges from $400-$1,000. That's why it's a good idea to look at the pros and cons, and even talk to others who have had it done before scheduling a cleaning.


A study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health indicates that occupants in buildings where ducts have never been cleaned are 60 percent more likely to develop respiratory-related ailments, such as allergies, asthma or sinus congestion.


Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Studies also do not conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts or go down after cleaning. The reason for this is the dirt inside air ducts sticks to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space.

When to Consider Duct Cleaning

There are some situations where you should consider having your ducts cleaned, according to the EPA. These include when:

*There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system.

*Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects).

*Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are being released into your home from your supply register.

Bottom line from the EPA

Having your ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary in most cases. The exception would be when someone in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think may be related to your home environment. In addition, you have done a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts that revealed they are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold.

Keep in mind it is perfectly normal for the return registers to get dusty as air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris. The registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.

Some individuals may still want to have their air ducts cleaned occasionally simply because it seems like a sound maintenance procedure as air ducts get dirty over time. The EPA has said this is fine as long as you seek out a reputable firm with good references. If you choose to have duct cleaning done, do your homework first.

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