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August 15, 2011

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Home » Metro » Environment

City tells dirty air-con firms to clean up act

DIRTY air conditioning systems throughout the city could be spewing out viruses and harmful pollutants, according to a local government survey.

Figures found that fewer than 1 percent of buildings with shared air conditioning systems received regular cleaning or maintenance.

"The ventilation network passes on viruses and poses a major public safety threat," said Xu Wei, a local government spokesman.

To tackle this, the city government yesterday announced a local act ruling that property managers should clean and maintain a building's air conditioning and ventilation facilities at least once each year.

Random checks by the local health watchdog will help enforce this. The act takes effect on December 1.

Those failing to comply will see their company and building names published in local media and may also be subject to other, as yet unspecified, penalties.

In the latest survey, completed at end of 2009 by the local health bureau, more than 99 percent of shared air-con systems did not receive regular cleaning or maintenance.

And many facilities had never been cleaned since being installed.

There are at least 15,000 buildings in Shanghai equipped with such air conditioning systems.

Local government officials said yesterday that the situation had not improved since 2009.

The act is part of government efforts to improve air safety in buildings such as hotels, schools, shopping malls and residential complexes.

Under the regulations, building operators should shut down the air-con system if any cases of infectious diseases are discovered.

The system cannot resume service until it is sanitized and has passed health authority checks, the regulations say.

Officials said design flaws, such as building outlets for recycled air beside rubbish dumps, have caused some of the local air-conditioning facilities to transmit pollutants and viruses.

Property owners are required to remedy these and builders must hire government-certified designers to complete air conditioning systems, say the regulations.

It has been five years since the Ministry of Health issued state-level regulations, requiring centralized air conditioners to be cleaned at least once every two years.

Figures suggest these have not led to improvements nationally.


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