Keeping indoor air clean is critical to maintaining a healthy environment. The inner workings of a building’s operating system is often a mystery to the untrained person or board member. Since it’s easier to determine the cleanliness of common rooms such as garbage and recycling areas, more attention is often paid to keeping these shared spaces sanitary. However, there are no federal or state guidelines that require a building to have its air ducts cleaned, for example, and these systems often need attention because danger could be brewing from within.
“Aside from dust and allergens, we have received calls due to bad smells,” says Caesar Romo, air duct supervisor for the Elmhurst-based Quality Air Duct Cleaning. “We have found both dead and live animals. Sometimes kids will hide things in the ducts too; so we have found money and other things stashed away.”
A recent Harvard study showed that 100 percent of homes tested for indoor air pollution had one or more air quality problems. The following facts are not pleasant, but important to note to better underscore potential health issues. There are approximately 42,000 dust mites living in every ounce of dust polluting the air. On average, dust mites leave fecal droppings about 20 times a day. This is but one segment of possible pollutants. Add pet dander and cigarette smoke to the environment and allergens increase three-fold.
“Indoor air is very different than outdoor air,” says Kristy Lee, technical director of Indoor Environment Communications. “Indoor air is not circulating or being refreshed so if there is any kind of problem in a building such as mold or dust or anything like that it becomes an irritant, gets worse and keeps getting circulated throughout the building.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finds that there is not enough knowledge currently to determine whether or not air duct cleaning actually prevents health problems. Additionally, studies have not conclusively demonstrated that the levels of particulates in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. However, the EPA does state that “It makes no sense to clean duct-work if air handlers are left untouched. Air ducts deliver exactly what an air handler drives, and if the duct-work is dirty, so are the air handler’s guts.”