Monday, 1 October 2007

Most can cohabitate with dust mites

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Once again, Americans' disdain for anything dirty has spawned a lucrative business. Lately, a barrage of advertisements touting dust mite obliteration as a necessary housekeeping task leave me wondering why these invisible creatures haven't eaten my toddler alive yet. So, what's the deal?

Here are the facts. According to Wikipedia, the house dust mite (sometimes abbreviated by allergists to HDM), is a cosmopolitan guest in human habitation. Dust mites feed on organic detritus such as flakes of shed human skin and flourish in the stable environment of dwellings. In nature they are killed by micro-predators and by exposure to direct sun rays.

The main issue: Dust mites are considered to be the most common cause of asthma and allergic symptoms worldwide. But if you don't harbor those symptoms, it's probably safe to ignore the advertising for everything from special bedding to vacuums, detergents and sprays designed to rid one's home of dust mites. As Environment, Health and Safety Online explains, microscopic cast skins and feces are a major constituent of house dust that induces allergic reactions in some individuals. But, for most people, while they are disgusting, house dust mites are not actually harmful. And as my neighbor pointed out recently: "They serve a purpose. Imagine all that dead skin lying around if dust mites didn't exist!"

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