• Article

Investigation of the potential antimicrobial efficacy of sealants used in HVAC systems

Recent experiments confirm field experience that duct cleaning alone may not provide adequate protection from regrowth of fungal contamination on fiberglass duct liner (FGDL). Current recommendations for remediation of fungally contaminated fiberglass duct materials specify complete removal of the materials. But removal of contaminated materials can be extremely expensive. Therefore, a common practice in the duct-cleaning industry is the postcleaning use of antimicrobial surface coatings with the implication that they may contain or limit regrowth. Little information is available on the efficacy of these treatments. This paper describes a study to evaluate whether three commercially available antimicrobial coatings, placed on a cleaned surface that 1 year previously had been actively growing microorganisms, would be able to prevent regrowth. The three coatings contained different active antimicrobial compounds. All three of the coatings were designed for use on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system components or interior surfaces of lined and unlined duct systems. Coating I was a polyacrylate copolymer containing zinc oxide and borates. Coating II was an acrylic coating containing decabromodiphenyl oxide and antimony trioxide. Coating III was an acrylic primer containing a phosphated quaternary amine complex. The study included field and laboratory assessments. The three treatments were evaluated in an uncontrolled field setting in an actual duct system. The laboratory study broadened the field study to include a range of humidities under controlled conditions. Both static and dynamic chamber laboratory experiments were performed. The results showed that two of the three antimicrobial coatings limited the regrowth of fungal contamination, at least in the short term (the 3-month time span of the study); the third did not. Before use in the field, testing of the efficacy of antimicrobial coatings under realistic use conditions is recommended because antimicrobials have different baseline activities and interact differently with the substrate that contains them and their local environment


Foarde, K., VanOsdell, D., & Menetrez, MY. (2001). Investigation of the potential antimicrobial efficacy of sealants used in HVAC systems. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 51(8), 1219-1226.