Hidden Hazard in Air Conditioners

Date Added: 14 July 2020, 12:20
Last Updated Date:15 July 2020, 12:33

Stating that air-conditioners, which offer very welcome relief from sweltering hot weather especially in these extremely hot summer days, can potentially be a source of health concerns unless they are cleaned well and checked on regularly, pulmonologist Professor Doctor Finn Rasmussen, the Head of the Department of Chest Diseases of Near East University Hospital, delivered further information: "As the hottest days of the year are experienced in our country, the temperature has reached 40 centigrade degrees and this has increased the need for air-conditioning. Whether they are at work, at home, in a shopping center or in their cars, one of the saving graces that people have to combat the sweltering summer is air conditioning. However, to ensure that air conditioning is beneficial, the air systems need to be cleaned and checked on a regular basis. Relevant studies provide data that exposure to bad air quality caused by air-conditioners that are not cleaned and controlled on regular basis can usher in health problems”.

Expressing that air conditioning can be critical for patients suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems, Professor Finn Rasmussen states that inadequate indoor air quality may lead to an increase in the symptoms in people suffering from asthma and new asthma cases in people with sensitive respiratory tract. Expressing that the air of an indoor environment may contain biological or microbial contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, mold, pollens, allergens, spilled dead skin cells of pets, particles of cockroaches and other insect pests, Prof. Dr. Finn Rasmussen notes that such substances can easily be inhaled as they consist of very small and volatile particles.

Prof. Dr. Finn Rasmussen: "Air conditioners that are not cleaned and checked regularly threats the human health as they contain many biological or microbial contaminants".
Noting that air conditioners that are not cleaned and checked on a regular basis are a potential source of viral, bacterial and fungal diseases as they house many types of microbes including viruses, bacteria and fungi (mold), Professor Rasmussen delivered information regarding the diseases:

“Inhaling specific environmental allergens may cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is a lung disease causing inflammation of the lung tissue. This inflammation makes breathing difficult. In general, acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis cases are treated successfully. However, individuals may develop chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis as a result of being exposed to allergens constantly over an extended period. In rare cases, chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis leads to irreversible, permanent scarring of the lung tissue and bronchi over time. This may cause the patient to be unable to breathe at all. A bacterium that can survive in the central heating / cooling systems of buildings can sometimes lead to Legionnaires' Disease; a potentially fatal infectious disease that produces high fever and pneumonia. This bacterium, which is spread by air conditioners, can affect many people in the same environment simultaneously. Most types of air conditioners we use at home do not contain bacteria since they have no water cooling system. However, central ventilation systems in large buildings and offices pose a risk for human health if they are not properly and timely cleaned and checked".

Expressing that Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of lung inflammation caused by a bacterium known as legionella, Professor Finn Rasmussen underlines that legionella bacteria can multiply in water systems such as air conditioners. Professor Rasmussen notes that it may be difficult to diagnose Legionnaires' disease, the symptoms of which are headache, fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and loss of appetite. "Patients, who admit to hospital with these complaints, are often diagnosed with pneumonia as a result of medical imaging tests. Apart from medical imagining, physical examination, certain blood tests and urine tests, which help identify the presence of legionella bacteria quickly, are essential for accurate diagnosis. Diagnosing and treating Legionnaires' disease as soon as possible can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications. When not treated promptly, Legionnaires' disease can be fatal” said he.

Prof. Dr. Finn Rasmussen: "Open the windows of your car before getting on your vehicle in hot weather in order to ensure air circulation"
Stating that the air released from the air conditioners consists of various gases such as volatile organic compounds that can aggravate airborne irritants such as dust and allergens and cause respiratory tract problems and inflammation, Professor Rasmussen notes that car air conditioners also pose a risk for health issues unless they are cleaned on a regular basis.

"Regardless in the shade or not, cars also heat up due to excessive hot weather in summer and chemical gases released from materials used in the interior equipment of some cars are released into the vehicle. This is a potential risk for developing respiratory problems including asthma exacerbation. In order to reduce the exposure to such gases released by chemical equipment of some cars, it is recommended to open the windows and ensure the air circulation inside before getting on the vehicle" said he.

Highlighting that air conditioners can potentially be a source of health concerns to people of all ages unless their maintenance are done regularly, Professor Rasmussen states that air conditioners have become an indispensable requirement in our days. "A gentle blow of cool air is all we need in the sweltering summer. A well-maintained air conditioning system helps improve the quality of the indoor air and has a protective role for people with seasonal allergy against outdoor pollens.

Inadequate air quality may cause an increase in asthma symptoms...
Expressing that the deficiency in ventilation system degrades the indoor air quality by reducing the dilution of the indoor air pollutants, Professor Rasmussen states that air conditioning systems of air conditioners that are not properly maintained may contain high contaminants such as dust, pollens and other allergens that degrade the air quality in the ambient. “Temperature, humidity and microbiological contamination are other factors that aggravate this situation. Exposure to high dust and pollens in the ambient may worsen the symptoms in people suffering from asthma. Besides, biological substances such as mold in the ambient may cause uncomfortable symptoms in some people having allergic rhinitis or other respiratory problems” noted he.
Expressing that the health of people suffering from asthma may be affected after being exposed to air conditioner that are not cleaned and controlled regularly, Prof. Dr. Rasmussen states that prolonged exposure to such air conditioning can worsen the asthma and lead to lung infection. "Besides, cold weather is also a factor that triggers typical asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Therefore, depending on the content, air conditioning may be useful or harmful for respiratory diseases" noted he.

Recommendations

  • Use the air conditioner in a controlled way
  • Avoid sudden and significant changes in temperature and humidity since they affect the respiratory system
  • Ensure that all air conditioning systems are maintained properly to reduce the risk of contamination of microorganisms
  • Check stagnant water used in facilities. If water is used in the systems employed for air conditioning, make sure that this water is changed regularly
  • Change or clean the filters of the systems you use regularly
  • Ventilate your car thoroughly before the trip, especially in summer