Do Radiators Circulate Allergens

Do Radiators Circulate Allergens

Radiators circulate dust particles that contain allergens that are potent triggers for allergic reactions when in use.

It is now recognised that radiators influence air movement in our airtight homes by heat convection which increases exposure levels of allergens.

Poor indoor air quality is now becoming a concern for the government – APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group), and the NHS for the wellbeing of the nation and the increasing financial burden and impact of the health care sector.


Cost of Treatment for Asthma

When calculating asthma costs and its impact on a larger scale it is important to consider both the direct and indirect costs. In the UK approximately 5.4 million people are currently diagnosed and being treated for asthma

When investigating the UK asthma costs approximately £1.1 billion per annum in treatment costs. When examining data from 2011-2012 this can be broken down as £660 million on medication related to asthma, £154 million for hospital consultations, £143 million in disability claims and £123.2 million in hospital.

An article published in the Journal of Community Nursing states that “every 10 seconds someone in the UK has a potentially fatal asthma attack” it also supports that the death toll for asthma within the UK is 3 people per day.












































Figure 17. Table showing emergency hospital admissions from 2013 to 2014 (Data taken from Asthma UK, 2017)


What Is An Allergen

An allergen is a type of antigen that produces an abnormally vigorous immune response in which the immune system fights off a perceived threat that would otherwise be harmless to the body. Such reactions are called allergies.

Sensitivities vary widely from one person to another. A very broad range of substances can be allergens to sensitive individuals.

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Types of Allergens

Allergens can be found in a variety of sources, such as dust mite excretion, pollen, pet dander, or Food allergies are not as common as food sensitivity, but some foods such as peanuts, nuts, seafood and shellfish are the cause of serious allergies in many people.

 An allergic reaction can be caused by any form of direct contact with the allergen.

Understanding what is in dust and where those components have come from.

House Dust Mites

House dust mites thrive in high humidity environments which moistens their major food source: human skin scales. They excrete a range of highly allergenic proteins that have been identified both as a causal mechanism in the development of asthma, and as irritants likely to trigger and exacerbate asthmatic symptoms.

The majority of dust reservoirs in dwellings contained house dust mite allergen levels above the World Health Organization, 2017. Asthma. sensitisation threshold of 2ug/g in fine dust. Our dwellings are becoming warmer and more humid: conditions that are ideal for HDM infestation and proliferation.

It's estimated that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025.

Similar to asbestos, a significant proportion of the current asthma pandemic and ill health that is being driven by poor indoor air quality is preventable if the Scottish and UK governments are willing to recognise the existing evidence

Another risk factor aside from household dust is pet dander. Pet dander is dried skin flakes from an animal which are small and become airborne, these can be inhaled and in turn, trigger asthma.

This kind of asthma is called “allergic asthma”. However, people can be an asthma sufferer but have no adverse effect to pet dander unless they are themselves allergic (Asthma UK, 2016).

Radiators can potentially circulate air which contains pet dander, continually exposing occupants to allergens.


Microbial taxa

The majority of human time is spent indoors in increasingly urban environments, spending more time with microbial taxa. Microbial taxa in household dust can have both negative and positive impacts on human health. Negative impacts include triggers of allergies and asthma.

Persistence and severity of asthma has been associated with sensitization and exposure to Alternaria Alternata, one of the most common fungi associated with asthma.

This fungus is normally associated with outdoor exposure, however, is also found in indoor environments. Spores are considered the primary source of fungal allergens; however, other biologically active molecules derived from fungi can be transported by house dust.

There is a positive association between Alternaria Alternata in the home and AsthmaMold exposure in homes has also been associated with Asthma and an otherwise net negative impact on health.



Peanut allergy is an important public health concern, particularly for infants. Where peanut consumption takes place, there are also traces of biologically active peanut protein in dust, there have been other studies which have demonstrated levels of protein from egg, milk and fish in vacuumed household dust.

However, more research is needed. This is however further highlighted with one study which found that the levels of egg and milk protein in house dust were high enough to elicit allergy response in patients with egg and milk allergies.


Particulate matter

Particulate matter and indoor air quality are associated with cardiovascular disease.

For particulate matter in indoor air, numerous studies indicate that these may affect occupant health even at very low values, making it very difficult to set a threshold concentration below which there are no effects on health.



Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are organobromine compounds that are used as flame retardant. Like other brominated flame retardants, PBDEs have been used in a wide array of products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, plastics, polyurethane foams, and textiles.

PBDE’s have consequences for children’s neurodevelopment, with negative consequences for reading skills and is associated with behavioral problems at age 8.

Exposure to dust containing PBDE’s has greatest impacts on toddlers and efforts should be taken to remove products from the home which contain PBDE’s. Household cleaning of dust is a practical means to reduce one’s exposure.

OPFRs (flame retardants) and phthalates are known environmental contaminants present in house dust.

Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors which can inhibit testosterone synthesis and their levels in house dust have been associated with asthma and allergic symptoms in children.

Flame retardants in household dust have been associated with alterations in hormone levels and decreased sperm counts has provided a visual representation of the dust content, estimated intake, exposure source and health impacts.

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Common Types of Mould Found in Homes

There are many different mould types that can be found in homes and different health problems can occur depending on the type of mould to which you are exposed to.

While there are more than one hundred different kinds of mould sometimes found in homes, here we’ll discuss a few of the most common.

By Inhaling mould fragments or spores can inflame the airways, causing nasal congestion, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and throat irritation.

Prolonged exposure to high levels of indoor dampness can reduce lung function and cause chronic health problems such as asthma.

Untreated mould can cause allergies and respiratory problems, so it's important to ventilate your home well, keeping the moisture levels to a minimum.

  • Alternaria is often found outdoors, but it also grows in damp places indoors, like in showers or under sinks with leaky pipes. It can also be found in buildings that have been flooded or suffered other water damage. It spreads easily from one area of the home to another. Exposure to alternaria can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks.


  • Aspergillus is a type of mould frequently found indoors. It can cause allergic reactions, respiratory infections, and a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which causes inflammation of the lungs.


  • Aureobasidium is a mould often found outdoors, but it can also be found in homes growing on wooden surfaces, wallpaper, and painted surfaces. It’s also often found on damp window frames and caulking. It is pink and black in colour. Many people are allergic to aureobasidium. 


  • Botrytis grows in areas with high levels of humidity, like bathrooms with poor ventilation. It can cause allergic reactions and asthma.


  • Cladosporium is a type of mould often found growing inside homes. While most types of mould prefer warm climates, Cladosporium can grow in cool areas, too. It often grows on fabrics, like carpets, and on wood surfaces, like cabinets and floorboards. It can cause a variety of respiratory problems.


  • Fusarium is another of the mould types that, like Cladosporium, can grow and spread at lower temperatures. It’s often found growing on water-damaged carpeting and other fabrics. It causes allergic reactions, asthma, and respiratory infections. People with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to infections due to fusarium exposure.


  • Penicillium is often found growing on materials that have been damaged by water, including carpeting, wallpaper, insulation, and furnishings like mattresses and behind the back of your radiators. It’s one of the mould types that spread quickly and easily from one part of the home to another. Exposure to Penicillium can cause allergic reactions, chronic sinus infections, and inflammation of the lungs.

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Tests are currently being carried by Keele University on possible contaminants that are found behind the radiators – so far, they have found one form of mould which they believe is Penicillium!

  • Stachybotrys chartarum is often referred to as “black mould” due to its slimy black appearance. It’s sometimes referred to as “toxic mould,” although the mould itself is not toxic; it produces toxic compounds called mycotoxins, which cause health problems when people come in contact with them. It can cause allergic reactions, breathing problems, chronic sinus infections, asthma attacks, fatigue, and depression. Stachybotrys chartarum has a characteristic musty odour and usually grows in places that stay damp all the time, like in air conditioning ducts where there is a lot of condensation or around leaky pipes


  • Trichoderma is often found growing on damp carpet, wallpaper, and other wet surfaces. It produces mycotoxins similar to those produced by stachybotrys chatarum, and it can cause similar health problems. Many people are also allergic to trichoderma.


If you could see behind radiators you would realise the potential risk of increased allergen exposure in the air you breathe indoors.

This picture of a radiator removed by one of our clients shows the extent of the problem going unnoticed!

It goes without saying if this was on the front of your radiator it would be unacceptable.

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By having full access behind your radiators for periodic cleaning would be the ultimate solution to eradicate this unseen dust problem!

With the ongoing rise in fatal asthma attack cases in the UK linked to poor air quality its important we become proactive to reduce the risk in our homes for exposure in the air we breathe indoors.

We should be aware of the influence from our heating systems and the adverse effects on our wellbeing when indoors.

There are circa. 190 million radiators installed across the UK of which a high proportion are not cleaned putting occupants at increased risk of allergic reactions.

Allergy UK estimates that 12 million are allergic to their own homes!

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