Humidity Can Affect Your Tenants’ Health and Bodies. Here’s How
Even if you’re aware of how indoor humidity affects your building, it’s easy to forget about how it affects the people who work or live there. Both high and low humidity influence the health and comfort of your building’s occupants.
Respiratory Health Issues
When the indoor humidity is higher than 50 percent, dust mites and mold thrive. Dust mites don’t often become airborne, but when they do, they can irritate the airways of people who have allergies and asthma.
Mold is a bigger problem. This fungus produces tiny spores that float in the air. Mold spores not only trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, but also raise the risk of upper respiratory infection in otherwise healthy people.
Low indoor humidity, on the other hand, dries out the mucous membranes in the nose and the airways, which can trigger asthma attacks even when few air contaminants are present. Even occupants without respiratory health concerns can end up with a dry cough.
Dry air also increases the risk of the flu spreading. The flu virus is surrounded by a protective lipid coating that hardens in dry, cold air, meaning the virus survives longer in these conditions. Combine this with the fact that your mucous membranes can’t fend off viruses effectively when they’re dry and irritated, and you have a recipe for sickness.
Skin Health Issues
Just as dry air saps moisture from your airways, it also dries out your skin, eyes, and lips. If the humidity in your building is too low, the occupants are likely to suffer from itchy dry skin, burning dry eyes, and dry, cracked lips. You may have noticed the common “winter itch” yourself. Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis also tend to worsen in low humidity.
Dry air is especially common in winter when the outdoor humidity is naturally low, so little moisture enters the building, and indoor heating further dries out the air in the building.
While high humidity is more common in summer, it can also happen in winter if the building lacks sufficient ventilation. High humidity doesn’t cause skin problems by itself, but the mold it supports can. In those sensitive to them, mold spores can cause skin rashes.
When your building’s humidity isn’t under control, occupants can feel too hot or cold even when the thermostat temperature suggests they should be comfortable.
In hot weather, the body cools itself by producing sweat, which then evaporates, creating a cooling effect. When there’s too much moisture in the air, sweat doesn’t evaporate as readily, leaving you feeling hot and sticky. Fatigue and poor concentration are also common symptoms of excess indoor humidity in the summer.
In winter, high humidity leaves the skin damp, so your building’s occupants will feel clammy and chilly.
Low humidity also causes discomfort in the winter. Dry air makes you feel colder by drawing moisture from your skin, creating an unwanted evaporative cooling effect.
The discomfort caused by humidity problems means more tenants will want to turn up the heat or lower the A/C temperature. That adds to your building’s operating costs and places unnecessary wear on the HVAC equipment, shortening its lifespan.
Whether your building has too much humidity or too little, there are simple, cost-effective ways to solve the problem. Improved ventilation and, if necessary, an in-duct dehumidifier can help with high humidity. For low humidity, an in-duct humidifier is often the most practical solution.
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