Hazards of Extreme Humidity Levels & How to Deal with it?

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Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Relative humidity1 is the amount of water vapor present in air expressed as a percentage of how much it could hold at that temperature e.g., a relative humidity of 50% means the air is holding half of the water vapor it can hold. As temperatures go up or down, the capacity of the air to hold water changes.

What is the ideal Indoor Humidity Level?

Ideal humidity levels in your homes should be between 30% – 60%. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, USA) recommends keeping “indoor humidity below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50 percent) relative humidity.” ASHRAE suggests a range of 45% – 55% humidity to manage health effects and illnesses. Too much moisture in the air has negative effects on your health and home. But at the same time, the absence of it can cause other problems like the easy spread of infection. Hence, it is important to maintain the ideal humidity level indoors.
Humidity Levels change with Seasons:
  • The Summer Air is warm & hot, it holds more moisture so the humidity is higher.
  • The Winder Air is cold, contains less water, so the humidity in general is lower.

Extreme Humidity Levels pose Health Hazards

Problems caused by High Humidity:
  • It promotes growth and spread of mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. These pollutants diminish indoor air quality, cause various diseases, and also damage your home.
  • Asthma and allergy patients will experience worse or more frequent symptoms.
  • High humidity indoors causes the home to feel oppressive. You may notice visible condensation on windows and walls. Mold and mildew will cause damage to furniture and electronic equipment.
Hazards due to Low Humidity:
  • Dry, arid conditions irritate sensitive membranes in the nose, increasing exposure to assaults by airborne chemicals, viruses and allergens.
  • Cold and flu viruses, allergic attack and asthma are caused more frequently.
  • Asthma and allergy symptoms can worsen.
  • Dry skin, sore & cracked lips, and dry air passageways occur.
  • Dry air is damaging to properties as well. Building materials as well as furniture are devoid of moisture when the air is dry. Cracks and damage can occur to flooring, trim, and even framing around windows and doors.

Too little or too high moisture in the air can cause a variety of health hazards

Here’s what you need to know about how to deal with indoor humidity naturally.
  • Ventilate your room: Keep your home ventilated, especially in kitchen and bathroom areas where more moisture is likely to form. Open the windows and doors whenever possible. Let the vents and fans run for long to ensure sufficient ventilation. Having proper ventilation in your home for a few hours every day can help reduce indoor humidity.
  • Air Conditioning: Turning on your air-conditioning not only cools down the room but also reduces indoor humidity, especially during monsoons.
  • Fans: Fans help remove the warm, musty smell from the room. It increases the movement of air, thus removes excess moisture through evaporation.
  • Replace AC Filters: Air conditioners are great appliances for preventing humidity. With time the filters of such machines get clogged and prevent the flow of air, enabling humidity. Regular cleaning of AC filter units will increase airflow & reduce humidity.
  • Take shorter or colder showers: It is advisable to take shorter & colder showers because hot and long showers produce a lot of excess steam that exposes homes to moisture and heat. If excess moisture accumulates in the bathroom due to hot showers, open the window or turn on the exhaust fan after your shower.
  • Line dry clothes outside: Hanging wet clothes indoors will increase indoor humidity levels if there is poor ventilation in the house. It is recommended to hang clothes to dry outdoors, especially during summers.
  • Clean your rugs often: Rugs are often overlooked, but they tend to collect moisture, especially when humidity levels are high indoors. If you notice your rug is getting damp or smelling musty, send it to the dry cleaners regularly to get it cleaned.
  • Repairing cracks and gaps: Walls that have cracks or holes can invite unwanted moisture indoors. Warm, moist air can seep indoors through cracks and holes during a warm, humid climate. It can cause condensation indoors. If the condensation is not eradicated, it can cause rotting wood, microbes, and mildew. Hence, regularly check for cracks and crevices on the walls and fix them at the earliest.
  • A basket of charcoal briquettes: Charcoal briquettes2 can help remove humidity and even odours from the air circulating in the house because of their absorption properties.
Alternatively, when the humidity is low, mechanical humidifiers can be used to add moisture to the air. Probably, the simplest method of having good humidity is to have indoor plants, plants are natural humidifiers. In dry conditions, misting the plant leaves regularly will help.
It is important to remember that a little humidity indoors is desirable, so don’t take dehumidifying measures too far.
By observing the pointers listed in above and continuously monitoring humidity levels inside your home, you can create a healthy and comfortable living.
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Know Your Home Air

Gas heating systems, leaking chimneys, fire places emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful pollutants. Plastics and common household cleaners, paints, paint thinner often placed under the kitchen sink, release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), when used and stored. Overheating of non-stick cookware releases toxic fumes. Pesticides we use in and around the home also release various chemical and semi-volatile compounds.


Harmful effects
Carbon monoxide causes headache, dizziness and fatigue. These often cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Fine particles are produced during all kinds of combustion which lead to acute and chronic effects to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Pet dander and hair, carpet, rugs, upholstery furniture are main source of dust mites, fungus, and bacteria. A dirty filter of air conditioners acts as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes, other tobacco products and mosquito coil emits VOC’s and formaldehyde and various particulate matters. CO2 released from our lungs is exhaled in the air which pollutes the air if the place is too crowded or there is less ventilation.


Harmful effects
All these can trigger coughing, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, dry mouth, vomiting,
digestive tract problems, depression, allergy and asthma attacks, and other respiratory illness.

Shower, faucets and other water sources are main cause of humidity and mold. Bathroom cleaners and personal care products like toothpaste, soaps, facial tissues, detergent, fabric softeners, air fresheners, deodorizers, hair sprays, disinfectants, are full of VOC’s and chemicals which emits harmful pollutants.


Harmful effects
Mold can cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory ailments. VOC’s and toxic chemicals released in the bathroom can causes eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea and respiratory problems. All these products release harmful pollutants while they are used also when they are stored.

A bedroom contains many sources of indoor air pollution. Mattress, pillow and blankets, soft toys, are the reservoirs of dust mites, fungi and bacteria. Furniture, carpets, paints and beauty product like hairspray, nail polishes, perfumes, deodorants etc off gas VOC, formaldehyde and toxic gases into the air.


Harmful effects
These pollutants make the air unhealthy which leads to allergy, asthma attacks, dizziness, headache, fatigue and other respiratory ailments.

Second-hand smoke
Second hand Smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Passive smoking can lead to coughing, excess phlegm, and chest discomfort. NCI (National Cancer Institute) also notes that spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), cervical cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, nasal sinus cancer, decreased lung function, exacerbation of cystic fibrosis, and negative cognitive and behavioral effects in children have been linked to ETS. Secondhand smoke exposure commonly occurs indoors, particularly in homes and cars. Secondhand smoke can move between rooms of a home and between apartment units.

Guest Bathroom

Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
The air filter in your HVAC system is the front line of defense against poor indoor air quality. A typical central heating and cooling system circulates over 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the filter. This means the entire air volume in your house passes through the filter multiple times every day. A dirty filter, however, can actually make indoor air quality worse by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. In addition to driving up your utility bill, a clogged air filter will allow all that dust and debris that should be filtered out to be re-circulated back into your home. This can cause chronic allergies and especially be dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

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