To slow the spread of viruses, humidity matters


Frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough and avoiding others who are ill—you probably already know the basics of protecting your health during cold and flu season.

But you may not be aware of the important role proper humidity in the home and workplace plays in preventing the transmission of viruses.

Having the proper amount of moisture in the air can help slow the transmission of viruses in indoor environments, according to a recent independent study by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

“Several studies have shown that dry air/environments are more conducive to virus transmission,” said Jim Lundgreen, a humidification systems engineer.

With seasonal flu and H1N1 cases occurring throughout the country, it’s a good time for homeowners and building managers to think about humidification and its effect on the spread of viruses like the flu.

Relative humidity is an important issue in industrial applications because it can affect the manufacturing process, and in environments like museums, where humidity can affect artifacts.

But it’s also an important aspect of maintaining the comfort and healthfulness of an indoor environment for the people who frequent it, whether it’s a home, office building or manufacturing plant.

Multiple variables, including temperature, affect the optimum humidity range. Per the Mount Sinai study, the optimum range appears to be between 40 and 60 percent relative humidity (RH).

So how do you improve the RH—and consequently the air quality and healthfulness—in your home or workplace?

Homeowners and building managers can measure indoor humidity by using a simple hygrometer. More sophisticated applications should have humidity levels tested by an air quality professional, such as an HVAC technician.

If your RH is less than 40 percent, you should consider adding a humidifier to your home or building. If it’s higher than 60 percent, you might want to consider dehumidifying, as high humidity levels can foster the growth of harmful fungus and mildew.

“Humidification and its effect on indoor air quality is something that has been well studied —and in practice—for many years,” Lundgreen said.

There are a number of ways to get moisture into the air in a home or commercial setting. Many of us remember the humidifiers Mom used when we were sick that puffed hot steam into the air. Many humidification systems rely on boiling water to steam and then releasing it into the air. Boiling water adds the extra bonus of purifying as it turns to steam—another way to kill bacteria and viruses.

Other humidification products, like cool mist humidifiers, are also available, so matching the right product to your environment is easy.

Homeowners looking to learn more about humidifying their homes can visit Aprilaire.com.

—Courtesy of ARAcontent


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