All the Ways Your Air Conditioner Is Messing You Up

Mmm, cool, fresh breeze. THE COOL FRESH BREEZE OF DEATH!


With temperatures regularly topping 100 degrees these days, there’s no noise quite as pleasing as the hum of an air conditioning system. But like all things that seem pure and good, there’s always a catch — and in the case of air conditioning, that catch can be death. Well, and other, less dramatic stuff. Stuff like…

As per this piece on Little Things, one common issue with air conditioning systems is that people forget to change the filters, which can cause different types of bacteria and fungi to accumulate. “Air conditioners can also be a breeding ground for black mold, due to the high amount of moisture that builds up from condensation that’s created with all the cool air that passes through,” they report.

As for why this happens, AC expert George Brazil explains on his blog, “As the air passes over the coils, the moisture in the air condenses and collects on the coils. And the moisture collects bacteria, dirt and dust from the air. This creates a perfect environment for mold, mildew and bacteria to grow and then be blown back into your home’s air.”

Additionally, if the drip pan of your AC gets clogged, causing the water to get backed up, you could be creating another breeding ground for sickness-causing germs. As noted by contributing writer Adam Elder, Legionnaires’ disease was originally caused by such a build up: “Ever heard of a nasty infection called Legionnaires’ disease? It was named for the event where the first major outbreak occurred: The 1976 American Legion convention in Philly, after which 29 people died and 182 were hospitalized. Do you know how they all got sick? From a hotel air conditioner! It’s true: The bacteria was breeding in the cooling tower of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel’s massive air conditioning system,” writes Elder.

Now, you’re highly unlikely to encounter anything this deadly in a small, home AC system — Legionnaires’ disease is only going to happen in a large, industrial system. But still, clean out that drip pan, yeah?

Headaches and Dizziness
If you work in an air-conditioned office, generally speaking, you’re better off. But if you’ve ever experienced a headache after a long day’s work, it could be the air conditioner. “Sometimes termed ‘sick building syndrome,’ it may be that air conditioning may be the cause,” reports The Huffington Post. “In a study published in the Aug. 19, 2004 International Journal of Epidemiology, people working in office buildings with central air conditioning had more symptoms of illness than those who did not work in buildings with central air.”

To that end, according to Mother Nature Network (MMN), one reason that could explain “sick building syndrome,” is related to the blood vessels in our nose. “The blood vessels located in our nose and throat also constrict, causing the infection-fighting white blood cells there to be diminished also, making us more vulnerable to a virus,” reports MNN. “Again, the virus has to already be present in our system, but going in and out of air conditioning can make that virus more likely to take hold of our system since we can’t fight it off as well.”

Dry Skin
Confession: I have naturally oily skin, so the fact that AC dries it out is a benefit for me. Still, for most people, dry skin is the enemy, which means air conditioning — the dry skin culprit — is also the enemy. “Both air conditioners and indoor heating can cause dry skin,” says the Vaseline website. “They remove moisture from the air, which lowers skin’s resistance and makes surface cells dry out.” In fact, if you’ve ever wondered why your skin gets so dry after a flight, the same explanation applies.

Weight Gain
You probably didn’t expect to find out that, along with drying out your skin and making you sick, AC can also contribute to you putting on some unwanted weight. But according to Everyday Health, a 2015 study in the journal Food Science and Nutrition found that modern technologies like air conditioning keep our bodies in a “thermoneutral zone,” a very comfortable temperature range in which we don’t have to do any work to remain comfortable. The problem, in other words, is that we move around less, which decreases the number of calories we might otherwise burn. “Also, when you’re hotter you tend to eat less, so keeping your house cool may make you eat more,” reports Everyday Health.