Is your car’s air con­di­tion­ing a health hazard?

Daily Mail - - One Day To Go ... - By James Salmon Trans­port Ed­i­tor j.salmon@dai­ly­

‘Breed­ing ground for bac­te­ria’

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 many types 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 sub­til­lis and Bacil­lus were the sec­ond most com­mon mi­cro-or­gan­isms found. Bac­til­lus sub­til­lis 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 is more dan­ger­ous and has links with a wide range of in­fec­tions in­clud­ing menin­gi­tis, ab­scesses 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 as it trav­els through evap­o­ra­tion coils and blown into the cabin as cool air. it is the evap­o­ra­tor in the sys­tem that pro­vides per­fect con­di­tions for bac­te­ria, mould and fungi to build up and thrive. Although the car fil­ter will pre­vent many pol­lu­tants en­ter­ing the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment, it will not stop all mi­cro-or­gan­isms.

the re­search was com­mis­sioned by Kwik Fit, which urged driv­ers to clean their air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems at least once ev­ery two years.

On av­er­age, the test found 1.6 dif­fer­ent strains of mico-or­gan­isms within the fil­ters.

Driv­ers in Ply­mouth had the most con­tam­i­nated cars, with an av­er­age of 2.3 va­ri­eties of mi­cro- or­gan­ism per ve­hi­cle. Dundee closely fol­lowed, with each fil­ter hav­ing on av­er­age two strains of mi­cro-or­gan­ism.

Com­ing in just un­der the over­all av­er­age fig­ure and at the bot­tom of the ta­ble was Cardiff, with an av­er­age of one type of mi­cro- or­gan­ism per fil­ter tested.

Dr Paul Matewele, a se­nior lec­turer spe­cial­is­ing in mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at Lon­don Metropoli­tan, said: ‘ Some of the bac­te­ria found has links to an­i­mals, the gas­troin­testi­nal tract of hu­mans and some in­fec­tions that could cause a lot of harm to in­di­vid­u­als, es­pe­cially those with a com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem.

‘the study high­lights that air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems are suit­able breed­ing grounds for bac­te­ria and there­fore un­der­lines the im­por­tance of clean­ing and re­plac­ing fil­ters.

‘i’m sure if car own­ers knew what they were blow­ing out of their air con­di­tion­ing vents they would think twice be­fore switch­ing them on this sum­mer.’

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