Many people today consider the antibacterial gels that they carry in their pockets or purses, or keep in a pump on their desk to be an effective way to keep themselves from being exposed to harmful bacteria and germs. While to some extent this is true, other practices such as regular hand washing and refraining from touching one’s nose, eyes, mouth etc. can prevent illness causing bacteria from breaching your body’s systems in the first place. Meaning: Good hygiene and good manners can do the same job antibacterial hand gel.
The same cannot be said of the same materials (and many others) when they are airborne. There is no amount of personal hygiene or a magic gel that can keep you from breathing in all of the same kinds of nasty bacteria in the air. So, aside from a person adding some sort of breathing apparatus to their everyday wardrobe or wearing a gas mask what is a person to do? While wearing a gas mask may save you from being forced to make boring small talk around the office it is less practical than taking steps to filter the air.
Filtering from the Source
Ultra violet light is an effective way to kill bacteria in almost any instance. There are numerous companies that specialize in U/V filtration systems installed in one of a few places in your air conditioning system before the air reaches the inside of your home. Methods involving these kinds of lights might more accurately be referred to as sterilization rather than filtration as they actually kill the germs rather than simply trapping particulate. These systems can vary from simple U/V lamps installed in the ductwork to highly effective, hospital quality filtration units that are installed in conjunction with the A/C unit itself. People with compromised immune systems, COPD, asthma or people who have children that suffer from any of the above might consider this type of filtration.
Filtering After the Fact
There are a number of ways to help filter the air once it has moved through the A/C unit and the ductwork. Change the indoor filter on a regular schedule and opt for the filters that offer the most effective, smallest particulate filtration. Mentioned earlier were the U/V devices installed “in-line” or as whole house filters. There are also a number of floor or desktop units that use the same kind of light to clean the air once it has reached the inside of your home. These are often used to mask or eliminate the effects of smoking or the presence of pets and the accompanying odors. Not all of these units use ultra violet light. Some claim to pull the air through a “grid” or “cell” to ionize the air itself and trap particulate. All of these filters have recommendations for regular cleaning schedules as well as specifics on the square footage in which they are effective. Homeopathic air cleaning products such as Himalayan Salt Crystals are worth trying if your budget or living space does not allow for some of the larger, more costly options. The positive effects of these items are not as well documented but the fact that they have been used in health conscious circles for decades may lend them enough credibility for use on at least a small scale.
**Filters that are not cleaned or replaced at least as frequently as is recommended can overwork the fans and motors of the air handlers they are attached to, can create fire hazards in floor units, and can negate the effect they were intended to have by forcing filtered material back into the air**
The Unit and Your Air Ducts
When was the last time you cleaned the ducts under your house or in your attic? Most people will answer this question with one word: “never”. Depending on your own level of germaphobia, sensitivity to dust and allergens and other personal factors you may want to get a professional involved in this project. Many services are available to clean the dust and grime that is in your ductwork. It is there…you may not notice it and even if the material is potentially harmful it may take years for the problems it creates to manifest, but it IS there.
There are a number of studies that show that at least a small percentage of lung cancer victims died from long term exposure to things they inhaled that were completely unrelated to smoking or other more obvious causes. Instances of asthma and COPD continue to rise as well.
A study by the American College of Medical Toxicology goes into detail in the study found here about how the tendency of children to breathe through their mouths instead of their noses, the proportionate difference of the volume of the air they breathe versus an adult and their increased heart rate as it relates to the circulation of chemicals to their immune systems, can cause health problems of all kinds. This along with the fact that 21st century children spend more than 50% of their time inside (between school and video games this might be a conservative figure) You should seriously consider looking into one or all of the methods mentioned to treat the air in your home.
If you or your children experience any kind of breathing related problems, you should consult a physician as this may also be related to allergies or other chronic problems that air filtration will likely help but may not be enough to treat.
Many resources, studies and suggestions relating to your respiratory health and the air quality in your home can be found at www.EPA.gov or by entering “indoor air quality” in your Google search bar.