Is your car’s air con home to a po­ten­tial health hazard?

Irish Daily Mail - - One Day To Go ... - By James Salmon

MO­TORISTS are be­ing urged to clean the air con­di­tion­ing units in their cars af­ter re­searchers found po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria liv­ing and breed­ing in sys­tems.

With the weather warm­ing up, the study shows driv­ers may be putting their health at risk when they reach for the cool switch.

Bac­te­ria as­so­ci­ated with menin­gi­tis, uri­nary tract in­fec­tions and sep­tic arthri­tis were among the va­ri­eties dis­cov­ered in air con­di­tion­ing fil­ters.

Swabs of 15 air con­di­tion­ing fil­ters were taken from cars across the UK and sent for lab­o­ra­tory anal­y­sis. Mi­cro-or­gan­isms were de­tected in all of the fil­ters tested at Lon­don Metropoli­tan Univer­sity.

The most com­mon was Bacil­lus licheni­formis, a bac­te­ria most com­monly as­so­ci­ated with birds and soil. Eight out of 15 of the fil­ters tested pos­i­tive for this mi­cro-or­gan­ism, which is among a type of bac­te­ria known to cause food poi­son­ing.

Bacil­lus sub­tilis and Bacil­lus were the sec­ond most com­mon micro­organ­isms found. Bacil­lus sub­tilis are nor­mally found in the gas­troin­testi­nal tract of hu­mans and some mam­mals. They gen­er­ally do not cause dis­ease but have been known to cause sep­ti­caemia in a pa­tient with leukaemia. Bacil­lus has links with a wide range of in­fec­tions in­clud­ing menin­gi­tis and sep­ti­caemia.

A car’s air con works by mix­ing fresh air from out­side with a re­frig­er­ant and the mix­ture turns into liq­uid as it is cooled. It is then turned into vapour that’s blown into the cabin as cool air. The evap­o­ra­tor pro­vides per­fect con­di­tions for bac­teri to build up and thrive. A fil­ter will pre­vent many pol­lu­tants en­ter­ing the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment – but not all mi­cro-or­gan­isms.

Dr Paul Matewele, a se­nior lec­turer in mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at Lon­don Metropoli­tan, said: ‘The study un­der­lines the im­por­tance of clean­ing and re­plac­ing fil­ters.’

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