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Fran Coe Streamline > Helpful Tips  > Health Risks of Dirty Air Ducts

Health Risks of Dirty Air Ducts


A dirty A/C filter can cause the air ducts in the home to become dirty and clogged, providing the ideal environment for mold and spores to develop within the ductwork. Millions of unwanted airborne particles may be breathed inside your home. Air filters, ducts, and diffuser vents can become an overhead trap for dust, tobacco smoke, and pollen, cooking odors and pet hair and dander. 

Improperly maintained air-conditioner filters and ducts can result in a build-up of allergens such as fungi, pollen, and bacteria in the air triggering:

  • Fatigue
  • Coughing & sore throat
  • Congestion and wheezing
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Asthma attacks
  • Flu-like illnesses

Large amounts of dust and dirt accumulating over time in a home’s ductwork can cause respiratory distress. Traditionally, equipment manufacturers warn homeowners that they need to clean the filters in their air systems. However, they often fail to alert the homeowner that contaminants can accumulate at numerous other points throughout the system. Mold, mildew, and fungi can accrue deep inside the units. This can lead to loss of airflow through the system, motors being overworked, and higher operating costs to get effective air comfort.

The Legionella bacteria optimally grow in temperatures between 68 to 122° F, making the warm, moist environment inside A/C units an ideal breeding ground. This is the bacterium that causes the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease. This disease is a type of pneumonia with symptoms such as headache, body aches, nausea, chest pains, and high fever often above 104°.  If not treated promptly, Legionnaires’ disease can affect bodily systems causing permanent physical and/or mental damage. If the body’s fever is not reduced and antibodies don’t defeat it, death can occur.

Air conditioners that have not been properly maintained can cause respiratory tract infections. These may include the common cold, sore throat, and tonsillitis. Moreover, dirty air filters fail to remove airborne bacteria, instead of permitting it to recirculate, spreading these infections to others in the household or office. Studies have shown that a large percentage of work absenteeism due to colds, flu, and other respiratory infections can be attributed to the circulation of airborne bacteria and fungi in the A/C systems.

Don’t wait till its too late. Talk to a HVAC expert and get those air ducts cleaned and regularly maintained.