Neglect of AC system may trigger allergic reactions

DUBAI — If you have cold or cough that invades every now and then despite the cleanliness and hygiene in of your apartment, check out whether the centralised air-conditioning in your building has been maintained lately.

By Omer Zakieldin

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Published: Sat 1 Sep 2007, 8:40 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:59 AM

Central cooling systems in buildings that are not cleaned regularly could be the cause of respiratory problems like flu, allergies and bouts of running nose and teary eyes, say some residents. The build-up of dust, bacteria and other impurities in the ducts has been blamed for the spread of such health concerns.

Laila Yousif, a Palestinian mother of five living in Sharjah, said she once had to go to the hospital and was put on oxygen after developing respiratory problem. “I suddenly experienced breathing problems and had to go to the hospital for a week to receive oxygen. I also suffered from running nose. I think these problems are linked to the air-conditioning in the building. Since the time I moved here three years ago, it has not been maintained,” she commented.

However, Yousif was quick to point out that the building authorities had contacted her more than once to arrange for the cooling unit in her flat to be cleaned, but due to her busy schedule she could not find time for the ducts in the system to be cleaned.

Another resident, Laila, remarked that doctors could not pinpoint the reason when on several occasions her eyes turned red and she sneezed a lot. She, however, believes it was related to the cooling systems. “I use a medical spray to alleviate the problem, but when they increase I have to take a pill. These difficulties can happen when I move from cold to hot places and vice versa, and they can be sparked off by some perfumes. These reactions also occur whenever I am in a room or office whose air-conditioning system has not been cleaned for a long time.”

An Egyptian specialist in lung and respiratory ailments, Dr Amr Elekiaby of Al Zahra Hospital in Sharjah, stressed that cooling units in buildings need to be maintained on a regular basis to avoid the build-up and concentration of unwanted agents.

“Continuous maintenance is required to remove growths of fungus and bacteria which increase when there are things like water leakages. The more the filters in the cooling units that are distributed across the building are checked the less likely it is for these diseases to spread,” the pulmonologist pointed out. Dubai Municipality officials stated that it is responsibility of the building’s management to keep the cooling units clean.

“It is not just about the air-conditioning, cleanliness of the entire building is the domain of the management. They should ensure that air-conditioners are cleaned properly every month. We cannot do much on this,” stated an official of the municipality’s Buildings Inspection Department.

Caretakers of some buildings, however, asserted that they followed the regulations pertaining to the maintenance of buildings.

“Yes, the air-conditioning is cleaned every month. Staff from an air-conditioning company come every month and have a thorough check. Air-conditioners are on throughout the year in this part of the world and we have to clean them properly every time, though sometimes there might be a delay,” disclosed Sameer, the caretaker of a building in Bur Dubai.

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