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 Environmental Health & Green Living

September 2011
A Breath of Fresh Air for a Healthy Heart
Pros and cons of centralized air conditioning
Dr. K K Kapur
Importance of regularly cleaning the air conditioner
Over time, dust accumulates on the air ducts inside your air conditioner. This not only affects the overall performance of the system in energy-efficient terms, it also hampers its ability to filter out microscopic and ultra fine pollutants.

Regular cleaning of your air conditioner should also be your priority so as to avoid:
  • Mold growth inside and on the air ducts
  • Insect and/or rodent infestation inside the air conditioning unit or air ducts
  • Clogging of the air conditioning system because of a dust buildup in the system’s filters or ductwork
Since these ducts disperse cool, dehumidified air inside a room and provide proper ventilation, not cleaning them regularly can result in a health hazard. Therefore, it is essential that you clean your air conditioner at least once in a year.

Patients susceptible to air pollution
  • Patients with respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive & restrictive lung diseases.
  • Patients with congenital cardiovascular diseases like large shunt lesions & cyanotic heart disease.
  • Patients with congestive heart failure of any cause.
  • Patients with arrhythmias.
  • Patients with pulmonary hypertension of various causes.
  • Patients with coronary artery disease especially those with unstable angina and those with damaged heart muscle.
  • These patient groups need to be particularly educated about the potential danger to their health and the necessity of avoiding the polluting environment.
Air purification at home
  • Keep potential air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, excess moisture and chemicals out of your home.
  • Ventilate to pull dangerous pollutants out of the house.
  • Run the exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen.
  • Open your windows.
  • Install an exhaust system for appliances and stoves.
  • Put camphor and coal in a corner of the room.They help absorb bad smells.
Pros and cons of central air conditioning
Most commercial buildings and homes these days use central air conditioning to distribute cool, dehumidified air to more than one room. In fact, a central air conditioning system has several advantages over conventional air conditioning systems.

  • They can improve indoor air quality - Air borne particles such as dust, pollen and lint get removed before filtered air is routed back to the rooms through a separate ductwork set.
  • Some central air conditioning systems are equipped with highly sophisticated filters, which can remove microscopic pollutants also.
  • Indoor noise levels are negligible because the condenser, fan and compressor are located in an outdoor unit.
  • However, central air conditioning can worsen certain health conditions, and contaminate the air inside the rooms with organic particles. Market research statistics show that Kent, Bionaire and Eureka Forbes are among the popular air purifier brands available in the Indian market right now.
  • They can aggravate cardiovascular diseases and respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, wheezing, and shortness of breath if condensation occurs on the cooling coils and in the drain pan. Such condensation promotes microorganism and mould growth, which may spread throughout the building by the central air conditioning ventilation system.
  • Central air units do not allow fresh air to enter the building, and so do not help reduce the indoor pollutants’ concentration.
  • Such air conditioning has also been found to be responsible for the spread of Legionnaires’ disease – a type of pneumonia – at a Tennessee, US hospital during the year 1980.
  • Studies have found people working in office buildings with central air conditioning to exhibit symptoms such as skin irritations, headache, fatigue, mucous membrane irritation, breathing difficulties among others. However, when they leave the building, their symptoms disappear.
Dr. K K Kapur is Senior Consultant, Non-Invasive Cardiology Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals New Delhi.

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