Research from BYU suggests Utah County’s climate makes dust mites less of a concern

Posted at 6:30 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 20:30:32-04

PROVO, Utah - For years we’ve heard warnings about dust mites living in our mattresses, but research out of Brigham Young University indicates the microscopic insects aren’t as prevalent along the Wasatch Front.

Dust mites live in furniture and feed off of dead skin cells, but Molecular Biology professor Scott Weber and Health Science professor Jim Johnston found the climate is too dry to support large numbers.

Their findings were recently published in PLOS One, a scientific journal.

“We have a very dry, semi arid climate here,” Weber said. “They’re able to drink most of the water they need through the air… so really they have to have about a 50 percent relative humidity to survive.”

Weber and Johnston’s team took dust samples from 46 Utah County homes, 23 with forced central air and 23 with evaporative (swamp) cooling, and analyzed them for mites. They also monitored the temperature and humidity in the homes.

They found that while the humidity in swamp-cooled homes is generally higher, it’s not consistently high enough to produce unhealthy levels of mites.

“We found only one house, out of 46 that we examined, was above the level of dust mite allergens, that would sensitize you clinically for something like asthma,” Weber said.

Pablo Frixione with Mattress Dealz said, even without mites, there are still plenty of things that can wear down your mattress. They suggest a mattress cover regardless to keep things clean, and prolong the life of the mattress.

“Those dust mites develop from the skin cells and sweat that we lose at night,” Frixione said. “So if you keep that out of the mattress, your mattress is going to last quite a bit longer.”

Even though the study suggests Utahns don’t have to worry as much about dust mites, Weber said they should still be aware. Prolonged exposure to dust mites in toddlers has been linked to asthma later on in life.

More information on the study can be found online, here.