How Dangerous Is Poor Air Quality in Hospitals?

For hospitals and other healthcare facilities, maintaining a high indoor air quality (IAQ) is a must for patient safety. Most hospitals install high-caliber ventilation and air filtration systems designed to clean the air and maintain healthy humidity levels. On occasion, however, these systems may either fail or prove inadequate, endangering patients, visitors and healthcare workers in the process.

What are some of the potential dangers when a hospital has poor air quality? Here’s a partial list:

  • Airborne pathogens. Disease germs and harmful microbes that float in the air pose the greatest health risk by far in poorly ventilated hospitals. Not all bacteria and viruses are airborne, but certain diseases like influenza and tuberculosis are known to transfer to victims through the air. Without proper filtration and ventilation, these germs can concentrate and expose patients to illness.
  • Chemical dangers. Many different chemicals can be found in hospitals, some of which are harmful to humans. From disinfecting chemicals like ammonia or bleach to gaseous anesthetic compounds, chemicals lurking in the air can cause both short-term irritation and long-term damage. If renovations are being made to an older building, even asbestos may be released into the air. Chemicals like these may eventually cause cancer.
  • Dangers from outside air. Dangerous chemicals in the outside air can easily dissipate; when they enter a hospital with poor ventilation or filtration, those chemicals have nowhere to go. Exhaust from outdoor generators may pose a consistent threat, carrying harmful gases like carbon monoxide, for example.
  • Humidity dangers. Ironically, too much water vapor in the air can also pose a threat. When humidity levels aren’t properly controlled, humid air becomes a breeding ground for harmful microbes like bacteria and mold which can make people sick.

Is Poor Air Quality a Threat in Hospitals?

When everything is working correctly, the air in a hospital should be relatively safe—even safer than the air in your home. However, here are precautions you can take if you have concerns:

  • Ask the hospital about their filtration and airflow systems. When were they installed? How often are the air systems maintained? If it’s an old building without an updated airflow system, you might be in the wrong place.
  • Take note of bad smells and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Dangerous substances are sometimes odorless, but if something smells foul, it probably is. Alert hospital staff if you believe the air quality is unsafe so they can take action to correct it

If you or a loved one gets sick from an airborne disease in the hospital, there’s a chance the air quality may be at fault, and you may have some rights to compensation. Call our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys to find out more.