Now that summer is on full blast, it’s time to crank up our ACs. Americans love their air conditioning, with 90% of them having a unit installed in their home — a figure much larger than people who live in other countries. But is air conditioning making you sick while giving you the comfort of a cool temperature?
Despite most people’s love for their units, there’s a pervasive belief that makes us think that AC is an agent that aids in the spread of disease and germs. If you work in an air-conditioned building with poor ventilation, it can raise your risk of “sick building syndrome.” Symptoms include headaches, dry cough, dizziness and nausea, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and sensitivity to odors.
A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology says that people who work in office buildings with air conditioning are more likely to get sick when compared to people who spend most of their time in offices that have natural ventilation. The study says that people who belong in the first group are more likely to have sick building syndrome (SBS) “symptoms mostly of eye, nose or throat irritation and respiratory symptoms such as cough.”
Is air conditioning bad for our health? The Huffington Post reports that, as long as the unit is well tended, there shouldn’t be any health issues.
“AC systems are susceptible to collect infectious organisms and allergens, such as dust mites,” says pulmonologist Dr. Wassim Labaki. “The proper maintenance of these systems, including regular filter change, is essential to prevent circulation of unhealthy air.”
Among the benefits of using AC is the fact that temperature can be maintained evenly, something that has a positively linked with productivity. A well tended machine can also help prevent allergies and filter out pollutants.
AC, as long as it’s cared for and not overdone, isn’t bad for you. The dangers of these devices lie more in the effect they have on the environment and the fact that they’re used by large amounts of people. A staggering 10% of worldwide electricity consumption is used for AC units. If this is a concern for you, fans, roofs, windows and the intelligent use of shading can help you create a space that’s comfortable, cool and that won’t affect the environment on such a large scale.