Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 February 2012
Most epidemiologic studies employ a vacuum cleaner used by a trained technician to collect household allergens. This approach is labor intensive, equipment dependent, and impractical if study subjects reside over a wide geographic area. We examined the feasibility of a self-administered dust collection method, using an electrostatic cloth sent by conventional mail, to obtain allergen measurements. Thirty-two nonasthmatic twins from the California Twin Program wiped areas in the family room, kitchen, and bedroom, according to standardized instructions, and returned the cloths by mail. Allergen concentrations for Der-p-1, Der-f-1, Fel-d-1, and Bla-g-2 were determined using ELISA, and intrahouse and room-to-room concentrations were compared. Der-p-1 and Fel-d-1 were found in most homes, with highest concentrations in bedrooms and kitchens, respectively. Der-f-1 and Bla-g-2 were rarely found. Intrahouse Der-p-1 and Fel-d-1 concentrations were highly correlated and statistically significant (for Der-p-1, bedroom vs. kitchen, p = .0003, bedroom vs. family room, p = .0001, and family room vs. kitchen, p = .002; for Fel-d-1, bedroom vs. kitchen, p = .0004, bedroom vs. family room, p < .0001, and family room vs. kitchen, p = .0001). Reported cat ownership was strongly correlated with household Fel-d-1 concentrations (p < .005). In another comparison from different homes of children enrolled in the La Casa atopy prevention study, allergen concentrations measured from dust collected by a single operator from the left and right half of the same room in 21 homes were compared. Levels of Bla-g-2, Der-p-1, and Fel-d-1 concentrations collected from right and left halves of the same room were highly correlated, with r2 ranging from .7 to .9, and were highly statistically significant (all p values < .01). We conclude that nonintrusive and self-administered dust collection, using commercially available electrostatic dust cloths, sent by conventional mail services, is a promising alternative to technician-collected vacuumed dust for measuring indoor allergens in population-based studies, although further validation of the method is necessary.