It is dry and humid in Malaysia all year round. In order to have a comfortable environment to work or do our daily chores, we need to have air conditioning at home and in the office most of the time.
However, many of us do not realise, that after a long period of operation, dust will gather in the air conditioner, affecting its function, as well as our health. What more serious is that the air conditioner is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
According to Dr. Oscar Hui, a Taiwanese lecturer in Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Management, the highest bacterial colony counts per cubic meter (cfu/m3) in indoor air quality is 1,000 colonies, or microbial contaminants not exceeding 500 colonies.
If we turn on the air conditioner in a closed room with poor ventilation, the bacterial count will normally exceed the standard mentioned above.
“When the air conditioner is on, bacteria will adhere to the dust trapped in the filter net, or water molecules in the air. Therefore in a closed room with air conditioning, the air will be filled with bacteria.”
- Dr. Oscar Hui during a telephone interview with “ESDLife” in 2011
Bacteria that cause communicable diseases such as influenza virus, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, etc. and other bacteria that accumulate in the air conditioner filter will be released through the air outlet. This increases the incidence rate in patients suffering from respiratory diseases such as nasal sensitivity and asthma. Those with low body resistance including infants and old folks will also easily be infected with influenza and hand, foot and mouth disease.
An Institute of Public Health overseas had carried out an experiment to find out whether air conditioning would cause air pollution. The outcome showed that rice would turn mouldy in 72 hours in an air conditioned room. In the experiment, two bowls of rice of the same amount were placed under a wall-mounted air conditioner. One of the bowls was covered, the other was not. All doors and windows were closed and the air conditioner was turned on. After 72 hours, the rice in the covered bowl was found slightly discoloured while in the other bowl, patches of mildew had grown on the rice.
That is because the air conditioner not only absorbs a large amount of dust, but also pathogens such as dust mites, bacteria and fungi. While dirt and dust accumulate in the heat sink (the core component in the air conditioner that transfers heat), condensation in the heat sink also encourages bacteria to breed. Moreover, doors and windows are usually closed when the air conditioner is turned on. A closed space with poor ventilation, especially in warm and humid climate, is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria.
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