Negative health effects of central air conditioning

Experts have been pointing out for at least more than a decade the negative health effects of central air conditioning. However, it is often used all day long in homes and businesses worldwide during the hot summer period.

These are the reasons central air conditioning can harm your health:

Aggravates respiratory conditions

Central air conditioners create condensation on the cooling coils and in drain pans that can grow microorganisms and mold, according to the August 2004 “International Journal of Epidemiology.”

People who suffer from asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory illnesses can get serious lung infections, shortness of breath, wheezing or other severe reactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC also says that mold from central air conditioners can affect healthy individuals, causing wheezing, coughing and upper respiratory tract symptoms.

Indoor air contamination

Central air conditioning units can spread indoor pollutants such as bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, pollen and animal dander, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Outdoor air is necessary to reduce the amount of air pollutants in the home but central air units do not bring fresh air into the home, and therefore they do not help reduce the concentrations of indoor pollutants.

Spread disease

Central air conditioning has been linked to the spread of Legionnaires disease at a Memphis, Tennessee, hospital, according to the February 1980 issue of the “New England Journal of Medicine”: an air conditioning cooling tower was found to have Legionnaires pneumophila in the water. Air intakes near the auxiliary cooling tower spread the disease, which caused 44 people to fall ill with Legionnaires disease.

Can cause workplace illness

In a study published in the August 19, 2004, “International Journal of Epidemiology,” people working in office buildings with central air conditioning had more symptoms of illness than those who did not work in buildings with central air.

The symptoms included headache, fatigue, mucous membrane irritation, breathing difficulties and skin irritations.

The study suggested that a likely explanation is central air conditioning ventilation systems spread contaminants in the air.

Air conditioner safety tips

As with all things electrical, care must be also taken to ensure that no safety hazards are present while using central air conditioning: contact with electric current from air conditioners accounts for a significant number of electrocutions and electrical injuries each year, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation (ESFI).

The US Fire Administration says that many electrical fires are caused by misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

So, if you want to avoid dangerous situations while your unit is running follow these air conditioner safety guidelines:

– Be sure that both the electrical circuit and the electrical outlet can handle the load.

– Always plug an air conditioner into a grounded (three-prong) outlet.

– If you must use an extension cord to reach a grounded outlet, make certain that you use a cord designed for air conditioners and that it is Underwriters Laboratories listed, meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specification, and can handle the power needed by your air conditioner. 

Keep in mind though that some manufacturers will not honor warranties if the unit is plugged in using an extension cord.

Ensure that the plug’s blades and grounding pin are present and do not use extension cords that are cut or damaged. And, never run any extension cord under a carpet! Use also ENERGY STAR rated appliances. 

www.bretonelectric.com, www.livestrong.com

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