Is Your AC Making You Sick?

  • Frequent colds
  • Stomach pains
  • Ear infections
  • Frequent headaches
  • Allergic reactions
  • Asthma
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy skin
  • Sore nasal passages
  • Irritated throat
  • Watery eyes/dry eyes
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Skin care problems
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No matter how clean your home or office environment is, there are countless unseen pollutants assaulting your senses. These toxic elements often go under the radar since they're not seen and their effects are usually associated with other causes or conditions.  But if you have two or more of the symptoms listed above, chances are these toxic pollutants are running rampant in your home. If you have any multiple combination of these symptoms, it's very likely directly linked to your central AC unit. 

If you have any multiple combination of these symptoms, it's very likely directly linked to your central AC unit.

So what's making you sick?

There are two main causes for sickness associated with air conditioners: unnatural coldness and mold.  Unnatural coldness, low cooling temperatures, often lead to illness and are relatively easy to control.  The other cause, mold, is a notorious infiltrator that is nearly impossible to get rid of once its settled in your home.

Unnatural Coldness: A runny nose, watery eyes, and other basic flu-like symptoms, are our body's own natural response to unnatural coldness - but it isn't just a matter of temperature.  Centrally air conditioned air is usually very dry since the units do not come with a humidifier function.  This causes the delicate lining of the nose and mouth to become cracked and dry, leading to nose bleeds and causing the body to overcompensate with excess fluid production. 

Mold:  Molds are microscopic fungi in the same fungal family as mushrooms and yeasts. Highly adaptive, fungi grow and reproduce rapidly, breaking out in trail of expanding circular patches known as mold spores.  Mold occurs in any damp organic environment.  You've probably seen mold on spoiled food, on pieces of decayed wood, wet windowsills, or on papers and fabrics stored in a damp musty place.  

With discovering over 270 species of mold, and with a difference between indoor and outdoor mold, there are a number of health risks associated with this contaminant.  Several factors have to be evaluated in order to weigh the magnitude of health hazards associated with this toxic invader.  These include:

  • Type of mold

  • Amount and degree of exposure

  • Health conditions of the person inhabiting the home

Based on these factors, a person living in a moldy environment can have health problems ranging from allergies to serious illness.  And as with any disease or compromised environment, pregnant women, infants, young children, the elderly, and those with significant health problems (especially respiratory diseases and/or weakened immune systems), are far more at risk if exposed to mold.

Mold inside your air conditioner

The most dangerous type of mold is the kind that's hidden.  Going unseen and undetected, it spreads rapidly throughout your room, exposing you and your family to countless health problems.  If you do detect slight mold, at either mild to low moderate levels, you can remove it through thorough cleaning, exposure to sunlight, and through proper ventilation. 

However, detecting and removing mold is far trickier with central air conditioning systems. Most people aren't even aware that mold can and probably is inside your air ducts and vents.  If you have several of the symptoms listed above, but are confident that your home doesn't have mold, chances are it's hidden in your central AC system. Aircon systems are one of the main mold producing appliances because they are a highly suitable environment for fungus.  The high density of moisture and dust makes this a perfect breeding ground. 

If you've ever cleaned your filter, you were probably surprised by how dirty it was.  Now imagine air conditioner ducts and vents that you aren't able to look into.  You'd be surprised by how dirty the return duct is - dirt, pet hair, drywall dust, all clumped together and funneled through air ducts, vents, and straight to your lungs.  If you take into consideration that the vents in each room may not be sealed well, it is very likely that what's in your ducts is getting blown out into your living space, all over your hair and skin, your food, your bed sheets, your makeup and hygiene products.  With such scary stats, it's no surprise that the number of people with Legionnaires Disease has gone up - a nasty flu-like bacteria that thrives in AC systems.

This unseen assault on your health takes an additional toll if you take account the time you spend listless from being ill, including missed days of work, money lost - all of which could be prevented. 

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What you can do

Ventilate your space: Crack open a window and let some fresh air come through. Keep in mind that opening a couple window for cross-ventilation is very different from switching on a fan.  While using a fan is a great idea for helping prevent mold, it's not ideal for getting rid of mold.  Once mold has set in, fans only ensure that the mold problem gets circulated faster and into more crevasses and cracks - making the problem impossible to spot till it's too late.

Clean your filter: Air conditioner filters were designed and installed to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.  However, as they collect these specimen, filters themselves can inadvertently become hosts to bacteria.  Pollutants build up and get caught in the filter so that as air blows on it, they disperse from the filter and into the air you breathe.

The best thing to do if you've been using your central AC unit, is to get a professional to come in and check for mold spores - which can linger in the hoses/ducts.  If mold spores are found, then you need to contract a professional to clean the area ASAP.   Make sure whoever you contract does not use just a brush or vacuum.  Using just a brush or vacuum, without any chemical cleaning solutions, will only loosen mold and bacteria and make you more susceptible to breathing it in. Here are some key things to keep in mind if hiring a serviceman:

  1. Did they clean the blower unit?

  2. Is the chemical cleaner they use certified and non toxic?

  3. Does the chemical have anti-fungi and anti-bacterial properties

  4. Make sure the serviceman doesn't just clean the unit with a vacuum and brush.  This will only agitate the bacteria and viruses breeding there, ensuring you and your family get sick.

It's ideal to have your filter cleaned or replaced once a month. If this sounds like too much of a hassle, or you don't want to bear the burden of hiring costly professionals, then you may want to consider purchasing a portable AC. 

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Get a portable AC:  Not only will you not have the mold problems as described above, portable air conditioners also save you the burden of hiring professional cleaners to clean your ducts and vents.  Portable room air conditioners run for 1/4 the cost as central AC units.

In addition to being able to find AC units with multiple filters, many now also pair as humidifiers - which will prevent the dryness problems associated with common central AC units. 

To live healthily, the air you breathe into your body must be clean, especially for your bedroom where you spend a considerable portion of your time completely defenseless - while you sleep! We live in a world where we have more pollution in our air than any time before.  You want your home and your sanctuary to also be a fortress against foreign pollutants. 

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