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Humidity & Your Health: 6 Surprising Health Hazards of Humidity You May Not Know

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After the drying effects of winter, especially indoors when the heat is running, we are now running headlong into the moisture-drenched air of spring and summer.

This is great for green growing things, animal families and land parched from too little rainfall. But it isn’t always so great for us.

Just as overly air can bring with it certain unpleasant side effects, so too can high humidity create health and home hazards you should be aware of.

In this post, learn what you need to know about airborne humidity to adjust your home’s humidity levels for optimal health.

Fast Facts About Humidity

Did you know there are two types of humidity? These are called absolute humidity and relative humidity.

Absolute humidity

Absolute humidity is a measure of the amount of vapor moisture present in the air. Air has a maximum amount of moisture it can hold based on how warm or cold that air is.

Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air.

Relative humidity

Relative humidity is this same measure adjusted for the temperature of the air.

Adding more humidity to your indoor air can make it feel warmer even if you haven’t touched the thermostat. Similarly, removing humidity from your indoor air can a feeling of lowered temperature, even when it hasn’t changed.

What Impacts Humidity Levels in Your Indoor Air?

At this point, you may be wondering what can cause the humidity levels in your indoor air to fluctuate.

There are three main triggers that can create rising humidity conditions inside your home.

1. Organic air leaks

If you have leaks, cracks, loose window or door seals, old insulation and similar issues in your home, your indoor air humidity levels probably fluctuate seasonally as outdoor air leaks in and indoor air leaks out.

2. Everyday activities

Another very common cause for changing indoor air humidity levels is what you do inside your home. Running the washer and dryer or the dishwasher, showering or drawing a hot bath, cooking and running humidifiers can all increase the humidity content of your indoor air.

3. Transpiration

Transpiration is a fancy term for how plants move water around from the roots to the leaves. You transpire when you sweat in an attempt to cool your body down (for your dog, this is accomplished by panting).

6 Health Hazards of Humidity

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long recommended that homeowners and employers strive to maintain relative indoor air humidity levels at between 30 and 50 percent.

When humidity drops too low or rises too high, you may experience hazards to health and home or workplace structure.

1. Infection, Allergies & Asthma Attacks

When relative humidity rises above 50 percent, your indoor air will feel warmer than it is, but this on its own may not be significant cause for concern.

Where the health hazard lies is when mould and mildew spores as well as other bacteria, fungi and viral germs gravitate to these nice warm conditions to breed and spread, causing allergies, asthma symptoms, infection and cold or flu.

2. Overheating

Being as far north as we are, Canadians don’t run the risk of overheating to the frequency or degree that our more tropical neighbors often do.

But overheating is still a significant concern as summer rolls in, especially when the humidity rises and it feels hotter and our bodies have to work harder to stay cool.

Factor in sun exposure or prolonged labour or physical activity outdoors and the risk of overheating in humid conditions increases still more. A year ago, more than 70 deaths were directly linked to a heat wave that passed through Canada.

3. Eye & Skin Irritation

Your eyes and skin rely on a certain amount of available moisture to stay healthy and comfortable. When the air becomes too dry or too wet, eye and skin irritation can readily occur.

In too-dry conditions, common issues include eye dryness, redness and irritation as well as skin cracking, flaking and bleeding.

In too-wet conditions, surface infections can lead to more serious health issues if left unchecked.

4. Foggy Mind

When the air becomes saturated with moisture, your body has to redouble its efforts to maintain the right internal temperature for health.

This can quite naturally divert available resources away from other so-called “higher” tasks such as thinking, problem solving and doing your best work at your job or at school.

5. Fire Risk

You have probably experienced the discomfort of a mild electric shock. This electrostatic discharge is often caused when the air is too dry.

The major risk here is of that tiny spark igniting a home fire.

6. Structural issues

Whether your indoor air is too humid or not humid enough, you can expect certain structures and possessions in your home to suffer for it.

Wood floors or furniture cracks and warping, wallpaper peeling, cabinet and drawer shrinkage and gaps around crown moulding can begin when the air becomes too dry.

Too-wet conditions can cause mould and mildew growth, condensation, rot, moisture stains and, worst of all, insect and rodent infestations.

Solving Indoor Humidity Issues

The first step toward solving all indoor humidity issues is to do a space assessment. Brand-new construction that is built to be airtight often quickly develops significant ventilation issues that can trap humidity indoors.

Older spaces, on the other hand, can develop air cracks, leaks or gaps over time and weather stripping may need to be updated to keep indoor humidity levels balanced.

Other correction options include installation of portable or whole-home humidifiers or dehumidifiers to keep your humidity levels balanced seasonally and reduce fire hazards and health risks.

Get in Touch

Do you find your home too humid or dry? Do you need a space assessment to find solutions for regulating your indoor air? Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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