Dangers of Air Duct Cleaning Chemicals

Air duct cleaning service providers may tell you that they need to apply a chemical biocide to the inside of your ducts to kill bacteria (germs), and fungi (mold) and prevent future biological growth.   Careful consideration should be taken before allowing the application of chemicals within your air ducts.  Due to the varying ranges of temperature, humidity and air turbulence there are very few chemicals that are approved for the use within ventilation systems.

Chemical Off Gassing

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in cleaning and sanitizing products.  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids.   Even a nearly odorless material can cause significant problems when re-circulated through air ducts in a closed environment.  VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

NADCA’s Position Regarding the Use of Antimicrobials

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association’s new position regarding the use of antimicrobial chemicals is as follows: “At this point in time, until EPA clarifies their position, NADCA does not recommend the use of any sanitizer or disinfectant products in air ducts.” This position was adopted to generate awareness among NADCA members of the potential legal liabilities they face by selling and applying antimicrobial chemicals. This is strictly a matter of managing legal risks. NADCA’s position deals specifically with sanitizers and disinfectants, not with any other product claims. Also, this position covers only air ducts, not HVAC components such as coils

No EPA Registered Products for Fiberglass Air Ducts

There are no products that are currently registered by EPA as biocides for use on fiberglass duct board or fiberglass lined ducts so it is important to determine if sections of your system contain these materials before permitting the application of any biocide.

If  You Choose to Use Chemicals in your Air Duct Cleaning Project

  • Review the product sheet showing usage and application of the product.
  • Review the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to understand if chemicals will cause any health or property concerns.
  • Review the Fact sheet on the product classification being applied.

If You Have a Problem Related to Chemicals Applied Within Your Air Ducts

  • Open doors and windows to ventilate the area with fresh air.
  • Operate the fan of the HVAC system
  • Exit the premises if negatively affected.
  • Contact and Industrial Hygienist to discuss the problem.  Be sure to have a copy of the MSDS.

The Quality of Your Indoor Air

Evidence has shown that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air.  Several factors contribute to poor indoor air quality that can be easily controlled.  Follow these simple tips improve your indoor air.

Identify and Remove Pollutant Sources

The relative importance of any single source depends on how much of a given pollutant it emits and how hazardous those emissions are.  Educate yourself on the different types of biological, gas, or particulate pollutants that can potentially affect your indoor air quality and takes steps to remove them.  To have a greater understanding of potential indoor pollutants read “Understanding Indoor Air Pollutants“.

Improve Air Ventilation

If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems.  Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house.  When weather permits open windows to increase ventilation.  If you are intending to filter the outside air consider improving your heating and cooling system by having it modified to draw filtered outside air

Improve Filtration

There are many types and sizes of air filters and air cleaners on the market.   As air is circulated through a forced air ventilation system debris is trapped within the furnace filter. Use furnace filters with a MERV rating between 7 to 11, and change the filter every 2 months that the filter is in use.  If a standalone filtration device is used, use a device that has a high-circulation rate and highly efficient filter.

Understanding Indoor Air Pollutants

A host of different biological, gas, and particulate pollutants can affect the indoor air quality.  The types of contaminants and the amounts that are suspended in the air determine air quality.

Biological Air Pollutants

Biological pollutants are or were living organisms. While all of us are exposed to biological pollutants in one form or another, the effects on our health depend upon the type and amount of biological pollution and the individual person.  Two conditions are essential to support biological growth – nutrients and moisture.  Keeping an area clean and dry is the best method to prevent biological air pollutants.

Common biological air pollutants:

  • Pet Hair & Pet Dander
  • Mold
  • Dust Mites
  • Pollen
  • Cockroach parts

Chemical & Gas Air Pollutants

Chemical and gas pollutants are the most hazardous of all air pollutants as they are often odorless, tasteless and invisible.  Ensuring proper exhaust, using building products with low levels of volatile organic compounds, and prohibiting smoking indoors are the best methods for preventing chemical and gas air pollutants.

Common chemical & gas pollutants:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Radon
  • Smoke
  • Building Materials with volatile organic compounds

Particulate Air Pollutants

Particulate air pollutants are particulates that have the ability to become air born when disrupted. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller are of greatest concern because they can pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs.  Good house keeping and construction containment practices are the best methods for lowering particulate air pollutants.

Common particulate air pollutants:

  • Drywall
  • Fiberglass
  • Concrete
  • Carpet fibers
  • Sawdust