Feb 15, 2012

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Allergy-Prone Owe a Debt to HVAC

These days, we spend a lot of time in doors. As society has shifted from a chiefly agrarian culture to an industrialized one and finally to a digital, information-based one, personal and professional lifestyles have largely moved inside. That move has coincided somewhat with an increase in airborne allergies. Recycled air contains a lot of material that our bodies aren’t meant to breathe – dust, particles of skin and hair, synthetic materials, and chemicals. The development and continued refinement of HVAC systems has played an important role in keeping better quality air circulating indoors, for which Dallas allergy sufferers can be grateful.

In a recent ranking of cities with the highest ozone-pollution levels in the U.S., Dallas came in fifth – trailing only Houston and three California cities. That means that air quality out of doors, especially in the oppressive summer months, can be very poor. For allergy and asthma sufferers, smoggy air outside means more time indoors. Indoor air pollution can be a problem, however. In large buildings, HVAC systems provide an essential service both by moderating indoor temperatures and keeping the air circulating. Good ventilation improves air quality by removing stale air and naturally occurring chemicals like carbon monoxide.

Federal and state governments have gone to great strides in recent decades to address the health problems caused by airborne particles and toxins. Since secondhand smoke was shown to be nearly as cancerous as direct inhalation of tobacco products, smoking indoors has largely been banned in office buildings, shopping malls, airplanes, and most commercial complexes. It’s still legal to smoke in some restaurants and bars around the U.S., but the number is dwindling.

The air conditioning and heating industry has also contributed to improving indoor air quality by developing suggested minimal standards for business ventilation. These standards are voluntary, but they offer a baseline for governments in establishing HVAC coding requirements for businesses and organizations. As the government tightens its commercial standards for environmental protection, more and more companies will be looking to bring their operations in line with the industry’s air quality standards.

For allergy and asthma sufferers in places like Dallas and other highly polluted cities, working indoors can often feel like being between a rock and a hard place. Elevated ozone levels, airborne particles from exhaust and wildfire smoke, and other irritants can make breathing outdoors difficult and even painful. Staying indoors doesn’t always offer a solution, as indoor air quality can often be quite poor, too. But the HVAC industry is working with federal, state, and local governments to ensure that even if the air we breathe at work isn’t as clean as it can be, it’s at least minimally hazardous to our health.

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