When you're shopping for new appliances, you might turn to consumer reviews from organizations such as Consumer Reports. But if you're one of the 34 million Americans diagnosed with asthma, a chronic condition that affects both adults and kids, or one of the 50 million living with chronic allergies, you might also want to know what products are asthma and allergy friendly [source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America; American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology]. Enter the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), a nonprofit advocacy organization for people who live with asthma and allergies.
Together with another organization, physician-driven Allergy Standards Limited (ASL), AAFA offers a certification program: the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program. Every year, Americans spend approximately $10 billion on products claiming to be designed for people with allergies and asthma. But until the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program launched in 2006, that market was mostly unregulated.
Under the program, manufacturers submit items to ASL for review, including the following:
These aren't specialty products. Reviewed items are everyday appliances and products, and some popular AAFA-certified items include Dyson vacuum cleaners, LG washing machines and Endust cleaning products. So how do they certify these items? An independent medical review panel conducts product reviews, with item testing based on proprietary standards they've set for each category. They test everything from the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paints to how well a mattress cover protects a user from dust mites.
Vacuum cleaners, for instance, are reviewed based on how well they reduce the total number of allergens in your home. The review panel looks at how well a vacuum sucks up allergens from your flooring, how the air filtration system performs and how much exposure a user has to allergens when emptying the appliance or changing its filter. Products such as pillows, on the other hand, are certified based on how much (or little) they irritate allergy sufferers. Pillow reviewers look at the effectiveness of the outer surface as an allergen barrier, how easy they are to clean and the types of chemicals that are (or aren't) present in the fabric or stuffing.
Products that get a passing grade are given permission to use the asthma & allergy friendly™ certification mark, making those appliances and products easy for consumers to spot in stores. And once a product is certified, it's not forgotten. The program is set up to monitor certified products continually to ensure they maintain certification standards.