Air conditioners are an appliance of simple convenience, especially during the height of summer with its scorching, oppressive heat but many people may forget to consider the potential side effects of the constant and continued use of AC units. Although many major news stories concerning AC issues have come out in the past decade, many fail to relate them to their personal air conditioners at home or those they may use at a hotel or hospital. Is that a potentially fatal mistake?
Legionnaires’ Disease and it’s Recent Media Attention
Legionnaires’ Disease is a potentially fatal illness that affects one’s respiratory system. With symptoms of headaches, nausea, diarrhea, pneumonia, muscle aches, and reduced mental clarity, Legionnaires’ Disease may be hard to diagnose due to the commonality of these symptoms among other illnesses. However, during mass outbreaks it can be easier to pinpoint the cause and potential outbreak of this illness.
Simply put, Legionnaires’ is the legionella bacteria that flourishes in a water environment. Recently, areas utilizing mass cooling systems, like Disneyland, an American Airline hanger, and even a rooftop cooling system affecting the area in the Bronx of New York, have all caused widespread illness and even death. The recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan has also put a spotlight on Legionnaires’ disease, as it directly caused 12 deaths.
How Legionella Bacteria Spreads
When cooling systems aren’t cleaned regularly, bacteria can form and eventually spread. Cooling towers, like the ones that caused the outbreak at Disneyland, take in hot or warm air and use water to cool it down quickly. And since legionella bacteria love water, this in an ideal environment for them to inhabit. The heated air evaporates while the cooler air travels through a building, providing a nice, refreshing environment. However, along with the evaporated water molecules, the bacteria may also hitch a ride and easily spread, infecting tens if not hundreds of people.
How to Keep Legionella Bacteria from Taking Over Your AC Unit
With regular use, an air conditioner can cause condensation to form. In an area with poor ventilation the condensation can begin to pool, creating the perfect habitat for mold and bacteria. If you find scaly buildup near your air conditioner or air ducts, it may be time to take a look at the unit and schedule a time to clean it.
Poor air quality inside an enclosed space may also indicate the need to clean the air cooling system. If the air smells unpleasant or with a strong odor of mold and mildew, this may be indicative of an AC unit in need of cleaning. Also, it is always a good idea to have the air ducts cleaned regularly by a professional.
Other considerations can be made to protect against airborne illnesses caused by your cooling system such as keeping your home’s humidity level under 50% to negate mold and bacteria growth, or investing in an air purification system. Change the filters in your furnace at least every 3 months to provide adequate airflow throughout your home. These are easy ways to ensure the highest quality of air flows in your home while lowering the risk or illness.