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Humidifiers and Indoor Air Quality

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Published on Dec 11, 2013

Humidifiers are often used in homes to relieve the physical discomforts brought on by dry air. The moisture they add indoors can also help to alleviate common nuisances brought on by winter heating, such as static electricity, peeling wallpaper and cracks in paint and furniture.

However, excessive moisture in a building can also encourage the growth of biological organisms in the home. These may include dust mites and mold which can cause allergies and other conditions.

Recently, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) alerted consumers to possible health hazards resulting from dirty room humidifiers. The agency found that bacteria and fungi often grow in the tanks of portable and console room humidifiers and can be released in the mist. Breathing this dirty mist may cause lung problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to serious infections.

The commission reported that film or scum appearing on the water surface, on the sides or bottom of the tank, or on exposed motor parts may indicate that the humidifier tank contains bacteria or fungi. A crusty deposit or scale may also form within the tank or on parts in the water. This scale is composed of minerals that have settled out of the water creating a surface on which bacteria or fungi may grow.

These minerals can also be released in the mist and settle as fine white dust. This white dust may contain particles that are small enough to enter the lungs. The health effects from inhaling this humidifier dust are not clear, any impact on human health will depend upon the types and amounts of minerals found in the water used.

To prevent potential problems resulting from the use of humidifiers it is important that people follow the manufacturer's suggestions for use and care of these products.

These are just a few things to know about humidifiers and indoor air quality issues, to learn more about this or other health and safety, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown in the video.

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